In a mostly African American neighborhood in the South Florida city of Hollywood, some residents have to live on a street named after the father of the Ku Klux Klan. But finally, after an ongoing 15–year battle, the names of this and two other Confederate streets will be changed.
On Monday, the Hollywood City Commission voted 5–2 to start the process of renaming Lee Street, Hood Street, and Forrest Street, the Associated Press reported. The streets were named in the 1920s after Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood, and Nathan Bedford Forrest.
According to the Miami Herald, in addition to being the KKK’s first grand wizard, Forrest was a plantation owner and slave trader “whose troops massacred dozens of black Union soldiers after they surrendered in Fort Pillow, Tenn., in 1864.”
“To me, when you walk out your door and see those names, and you are conscious of what they stand for, then it becomes something so distasteful you can’t shake it,” postman Jonathan Anderson, 62, told the Herald.
Two years ago, someone spray–painted over the signs. But until now, the city’s commission, which the newspaper notes has never had a black member, had balked at making the changes, saying it would be “an inconvenient hassle” because people would need to get new driver’s licenses. Plus, some historians and lots of racists didn’t want the change to happen.
Last month, fights broke out at city hall over the issue and five people were arrested.
According to the Herald:
Exasperated by Hollywood’s dawdling, a protest calling for the streets to be renamed turned nasty last week when pro-Confederates arrived and, according to a black state legislator, hurled racial epithets at him and other African Americans and Hispanics. The demonstration of about 150 people outside city hall ended with five arrests when protesters disrupted a commission meeting.
“Blacks see what’s happening nationally and think, ‘Hell, no, this is not about to happen again,’ ” said state Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from neighboring West Park who said he was called a “monkey” and a “n——-.” “We will be vocal, and we will not sit on the sidelines.”
At Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Debra Case said, “It is time to change the names and the time is now,” the AP reported. “We must do the right thing and we must do it now.”
The vote means that the Commission will now start the process. Commissioners will have to take a final vote after summer break ends in August. But currently, Forrest Street is slated to become Savannah Street, Hood Street will become Macon, and Lee will become Louisville.