Atlanta, Ga.: Confederate Soldiers Home, 410 Confederate Avenue, built in 1902 to house aging Confederate Civil War veterans. This building, which is no longer there, is where the street got its name.
Possible new names include, Considerate Avenue, United Avenue and Soldiers Avenue, said Jeremy Gray, one of the Grant Park residents who led the petition effort. Gray said the majority of people who signed the petition favor renaming, but that there is a contingent that opposes it. Those in opposition suggested “Soldiers Avenue,” if the name change actually goes through. Neighbors were given ballots late last month with the three suggestions and a write-in option. Results will be tabulated later this month, Gray said.
It’s possible the three streets may each get different names altogether, but it is also possible that they’ll carry the same root name.
Early last fall, the council and former Mayor Kasim Reed formed an 11-member advisory committee to study Atlanta's Confederate iconography and develop proposals on how to deal with it. There were a host of recommendations. Among them was the immediate renaming of Confederate Avenue and other streets associated with Confederate leaders, particularly those who went on to support white supremacist activities after the Civil War.
While the report was submitted to the council last November, the council and the outgoing mayor took no action on it. There was also a recommendation that a subcommittee be formed to come up with an implementation plan. The subcommittee was never formed.
A group of residents in Grant Park, however, had been gathering signatures for a petition to change the names of thoroughfares bearing Confederate names in their neighborhood. The group worked off and on since the massacre of nine Charleston, S.C., church goers by a white supremacist in 2015. Their effort lost steam after several months but was rejoined after the riots last summer in Charlottesville, VA., where a counter-protester was killed during a so-called, "Unite the Right" rally of white nationalists and neo-Nazis. After the Atlanta Journal Constitution recently reported on inaction by the city council and mayor's office on the advisory committee's report, neighbors gathered more signatures and gave the petition to Smith, who presented the re-naming bill.
Smith said that Council President Felicia Moore has put together a three-member subcommittee to consider the advisory commission’s larger recommendations. That subcommittee was to have been formed late last year, but never materialized until after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story ran two weeks ago. The committee members include Smith, Michael Julian Bond and Natalyn Archibong. They hold their first meeting later this month.
“We need to read and study the history contained in the report, but what this committee will be compelled to do is study the recommendations and decide what the city will implement,” Smith said. “It’s going to bear some fruit.”