The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 8-0-1 to move forward with a plan to rename roadways — both existing and one already-named, unbuilt road — and signage named after Confederate and segregationist symbols.
The plan calls for a report due by September, which includes a timeline, public engagement process and cost estimates to implement changes to several Confederate and Segregationist items already submitted by the public, names of public roads within Loudoun County and Kephart Bridge Landing.
“These are people that Loudoun County once chose to honor,” Vice Chairman Koran Saines (D-Sterling) said.
“The question before us is, do we still want to honor these horrible people?” he said. “Do we want to turn the page to a Loudoun that welcomes everybody?”
Twelve items are listed in the county’s inventory of roadways and symbols named after the Confederacy and Segregationists near Round Hill, Philmont, Lucketts and Leesburg.
The board is working simultaneously to rename Loudoun County’s Route 7 and Route 50, named after former Virginia Gov. Harry F. Byrd and Confederate commander John Mosby, respectively, because of their history of supporting racism.
Last December, the board voted to begin the process of renaming the highways.
Supervisor Juli Briskman (D-Algonkian) brought forward the initiative. Saines directed staff to also coordinate with Fairfax County, to provide a cost estimate.
Saines said similar to Fairfax County’s recent efforts to rename Routes 29, 50, and other local highways, he believed it was time to follow suit.
Myriad communities across the country have sought to address the country’s reckoning of past racism, including by removing war memorials and Confederate symbols and signs across the country.
As reported earlier, Loudoun County and other localities across Virginia were given authority by state lawmakers to “remove, relocate or contextualize” war memorials during the 2020 General Assembly session. The law went into effect in last July.
Since last summer, the “Silent Sentinel” statue that stood outside the Loudoun County courthouse was returned to the Loudoun Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The World War I memorial plaque that racially segregates 30 white and Black soldiers is also being replaced.
On Tuesday, the board spent most of its time making sure the public would be involved in the renaming process and that residents would be aware of the workplan.
Supervisor Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin) said he’s concerned about the residents that may be impacted by the proposal to rename roadway name changes. Additionally, Kershner said he is concerned about striking all the names listed for renaming.
“I think that’s really dangerous,” Kershner said.
“Quite frankly, I think the reason that’s dangerous is because everybody has a history,” he said.
County staff said two of the names up for consideration are within the Town of Round Hill limits, a reason why Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) said there is a need for collaboration with the public.
“Whether we all agree or not, we still at least need to tell the people who live on the streets that we’re taking their names,” Letourneau said.
“I mean that has to happen and most of them probably don’t even know we’re having this conversation tonight,” he said.
Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said she intends to vote to rename all of the roadways and symbols named for Confederates and Segregationists. But she emphasized the importance of making sure to include residents in the process.
“Most of the people may not even know why their streets are named these names,” Randall said.
“They’re going to say, ‘you’re erasing history,’ but they’re also going to say, ‘I didn’t know the street was named that,’” she said. “This is not erasing history, this is righting a wrong and I will right this wrong.”
“But at the same time, there’s a process by which that should be done,” she said.
County staff were also directed to return in September with cost estimates from consultants to conduct further research on any building and street names that may not have been included in the inventory of Confederate and Segregationist symbols.
The board voted 7-1-1 with Kershner opposing the second motion. Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) was absent from the meeting.
Saines said, “The argument often is made that these people simply represented their time, but if that were the case, they would not have had to fight for slavery or fight for segregation.”
“The reason they had to do this is because plenty of people at that time thought slavery and Jim Crow were despicable,” he said. “It was wrong then, it is wrong now. Why on Earth are we debating whether they should be honored in 2021?”
Inventory of Confederate and Segregationist Symbols
Fort Johnston Road
Harry Byrd Highway
Jeb Stuart Road
John Mosby Highway
Future Public Road
Mosby Heritage Area signage
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, it was incorrectly stated that Vice Chairman Koran Saines (D-Sterling) brought the initative to create an inventory of the Confederate and Segregationist symbols forward to the board.
Supervisor Juli Briskman (D-Algonkian) instead brought the initiative forward and then asked Saines to sign on. The story has been changed to reflect this correction.