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Richmond City Council Looks To Rename Jefferson Davis Highway

richmond city council chambers
Photo Credit: Roberto Roldan/VPM News

Richmond City Council is considering renaming Jefferson Davis Highway after the local NAACP chapter and the neighborhood association called for the change. 

Council members Reva Trammell and Chris Hilbert, as well as Mayor Levar Stoney, have  introduced an ordinance to rename the portion of the highway within Richmond city limits. The ordinance initially removed the name of the president of the Confederacy and designated the road as “Richmond Highway.” But City Council’s transportation committee voted Tuesday to hold off on the renaming until September and solicit public input on the new name in the meantime.

Charles Willis is the president of the Jefferson Davis Neighborhood Association. He said their group has been pushing for the name change for years. After more than a month of anti-racist protests, Willis said it’s time to finally take action. 

“Now that we know better, we need to do better together,” he said. 

Willis added that the name of the highway clashes with the character of the surrounding neighborhoods, which are made up of mostly Black and Latino residents. 

“As life changed in the Jeff Davis area, then there’s a need for change also,” he said. “This is not just the request of the Blacks in the neighborhood, it’s a request of the Hispanics as well. Even white business owners have written to us.”

Two localities in Northern Virginia, Alexandria and Arlington County, renamed their portions of Jefferson Davis Highway to Richmond Highway last year.

Last month, the neighborhood association held  a joint press conference with James “JJ” Minor, the president of the Richmond branch of the NAACP. Minor said the NAACP is lobbying city officials to choose the name of a prominent Black resident to replace Jefferson Davis.

“As of right now, when it comes to memorials and street names, there really isn’t a balance of the history and we want our history taught as well,” Minor said.

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