Big news yesterday on the Civil War symbolism front.
The Fort Smith School Board voted unanimously Monday night to phase out Confederate symbolism at Fort Smith Southside after better than a half-century. The fight song “Dixie” will go in the coming school year and the Rebel mascot theme will go the following year. Somebody suggested Marshals as a new mascot, for the U.S. marshals museum being planned in the city and that doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
A cheer broke out following the vote, a sign of the number of supporters who turned out to say an end to the symbolism — established as a statement against school desegregation — was overdue. Eddie Walker, president of the Arkansas Bar Association, was among those who spoke about what the symbols meant to him, a black man, and his children who attended the school. Indeed.
And then comes word in Little Rock of another development on the Confederate front:
Dr. Anika Whitfield, who’s been working to change the name of Confederate Boulevard, says she’s gathered sufficient signatures from people along the street to put the matter before the Little Rock Board of Directors. Her letter:
This afternoon, we hand delivered the signatures of residents and businesses (including their addresses) that have signed the petition and are in favor of the street name change from Confederate to Springer Blvd to Donna at your office. I also included a cover letter, three printed street maps, and a check to cover the $150 processing fee. Based on the criteria of residents and businesses that we discussed, we are confident that we have more than the required signatures to move forward.
After your review, please let us know if there is any other documentation that is needed or information lacking to proceed. We would love to be included in the August 2015 planning commission meeting if at all possible.
As you know, we previously received multiple signatures from residents and supervisors at the Union Rescue Mission, but upon discovering that we needed the Director’s signature only, we have not been able to obtain a signature from him because their board has not yet met this month to approve the signature on the petition. I am very hopeful that they will sign our petition as well.
I am aware that you are on vacation this week, so I am copying this letter to Tony as well. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Peace and Blessings,
As I’ve written previously, the street runs only a few blocks from railroad tracks north of the East Belt Freeway to just past the Little Rock National Cemetery, ground originally intended as a Union cemetery, but also including a Confederate burial ground. Long after the Civil War, the street was named for Confederates because the old highway led to a Confederate veterans home south of town.
Some property owners along the stretch have objected to the change.