Supervisor Margaret Angela Franklin, D-Woodbridge, issued a directive Tuesday requesting that county staff begin the process of renaming Jefferson Davis Highway, also known as U.S. 1, which runs through Woodbridge and Potomac magisterial districts in Prince William County.
The highway is named after Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy.
“It is unacceptable that in 2020 we continue to have landmarks and roads that honor the treacherous, dark past of racism and slavery,” Franklin said in press release Wednesday.
Franklin and Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, are the first black women to be elected to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. Franklin said that she will “stand up against these symbols of hatred,” in Prince William County.
Fairfax and Arlington counties and the city of Alexandria have already renamed the Jefferson Davis Highway where it passes through those jurisdictions. Prince William County is one of the few remaining Northern Virginia localities that have not changed the name of the highway.
The renaming of the highway will require authorization from the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board. The process has been made easier, however, by legislation passed earlier this year by the Virginia General Assembly, which allows localities to remove or relocate Confederate monuments and rename public infrastructure named for Confederate figures without state lawmakers’ approval.
Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, said it is time for the county, and nation, to move forward, and leave behind “past reminders of devastation, hurt, pain and sorrow.”
“To be a whole community we can’t just speak action we must be about action for everyone. This change will breed positivity for the future and closure to a dark past,” Bailey said.
Supervisors last discussed renaming Jefferson Davis Highway in 2017 following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that ended with the deaths of a counter-protester and two Virginia State Police pilots. The county board rejected that effort, which was led by former Woodbridge supervisor Frank Principi (D), and passed an equality resolution instead.
Franklin said Tuesday she expects the board to move forward with the renaming after staff determines a process for the board to do so.
“I think particularly as we go through this time of racial tension, renaming Jefferson Davis Highway will hopefully start to heal some of these tensions,” Franklin said Tuesday. “It’s a step in the right direction. In a majority-minority county, especially in the eastern part of the county, we cannot have a major highway named after the president of the Confederacy.”