Glorifies an immoral secessionist war.

“In many ways, the North won the Civil War militarily and then lost the peace. You know, a group of writers, included many Confederate generals, began a school of thought called the Lost Cause in which they began to romanticize the Confederacy.”- Ron Chernow, Pulitzer winning historian

I love living in the South where I’ve resided for almost all of my adult life. My 3 children and 8 grandchildren are all Southerners whose ancestors fought for the South. Many aspects of Southern culture should be celebrated. For example, I believe that Southerners (black or white) are the friendliest, warmest people in the nation.

However, the glorification of the South’s role in the Civil War (still known to a few white Southerners as the “War between the States” or the “War of Yankee Aggression”) is notone of those positive attributes. There are over 2900 streets in the South named for Confederate icons.Objectively, there should not be any.

Last year, the Atlanta City Council took the long overdue step of renaming 3 Confederate streets in the City limits. The vote, a first step, was unanimous based upon the recommendation of a citizen committee appointed to study the issue. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms issued a statement indicating: “The imagery and symbolism of these names and monuments represent systematic injustice, persecution and cruelty. That is not who we are as a city.” She is 100% correct.

It is expected that in the near future Atlanta streets named for Robert E. Lee, Howell Cobb, Stephen Dill and Nathan Bedford Forrest will also be renamed. Regarding Forrest, it should be noted that he was a founder of the KKK. 

It is now time for other Deep South cities to do the same and establish a committee to review street names. As an example, let’s look at Birmingham, which is 73% African-American. There are currently 16 streets in the Birmingham area named for Confederates (Fast Company, 5-17).

I can hear the white nationalist objections coming hard and fast: “we’re proud of the South”; “it’s our heritage”; “you can’t forget history”. No, you cannot forget the past, but it must be remembered accurately. And, Confederate leaders attempting to destroy the United States of America in the name of perpetuating slavery is clearly not a part of Southern heritage of which we would should be proud. 

There are no public streets in Germany named for Nazi leaders. There are none in Italy named for Mussolini. We should not name streets for traitors to the USA, responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead in an immoral secessionist war that should never have been started by the leaders of Southern states, including the Generals and politicians for whom many roads are named throughout the South.

Further, these streets are a constant reminder to our many African-American citizens that white Southerners are at least indirectly proud of the institution of slavery, the true cause of the Civil War as clearly stated in many of the official secessionist documents issued by Southern legislatures. After 250 hundred years, isn’t it finally time to try to bring our people together rather than continuing to drive us into warring “tribes?”

Across the South, dozens of cities have moved or removed Confederate monuments. For example, Birmingham has had a time with the Linn Park Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, ending up in the courts (Al.com, 1-15-19).A valid argument can be made that Confederate monuments are art (objectively, they are) and should not simply be destroyed, but rather moved to museums and historic parks (versus the courthouse steps). And, these parks and museums should have exhibits which show the negatives of the Confederacy, including the basic sin of slavery.

However, the same cannot be said for these street signs which can just be easily eliminated. It is past time to take this step… if for no other reason than for the white power structure (which continues to dominate all Southern states) to reassure our black neighbors that we truly understand why the Civil War was fought and that this historic disaster is notsomething we as Southerners wish to celebrate.

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Image: Atlanta street sign licensed by LikeTheDew.com at StoryBlocks.com using donations from generous readers like you.

Jack Bernard

Jack Bernard

Jack A Bernard is a retired SVP with a national healthcare corporation. He was Chair of the Jasper County, Ga Board of Commissioners and Republican Party. He was also on the Board of Health for Jasper County and is currently on the Fayette County BOH. Bernard has over 100 columns published annually, primarily in the South.