Route One is the largest north-to-south road in the U.S. It spans over 2,000 miles and is a major highway in cities from Florida to Canada. The portion of the highway that cuts through Arlington County has been designated the Jefferson Davis Highway for the past 97 years. But now, that’s changing.
Following the national trend of renaming Confederate monuments, the Commonwealth Transportation Board is moving forward with the renaming of the highway.
Recently, an act of vandalism on a Confederate memorial in Nashville’s Centennial Park received national news coverage. Some people on social media condemned the criminal vandalism while others questioned if the monument should even remain in the park.
Kyle Wojewoda is a Florida-native who moved into a home along Route One in Arlington several years ago. He thinks that the change is important to “do away with the stain on our city.”
“Originally from Seminole County, Florida, I grew up in an area that was plagued by scars of segregation, slavery and recent injustices such as the Travyon Martin killing,” he said.
“Hundreds of miles north where I reside today, I am shocked that such a progressive and inclusive metropolitan area glorifies a dark part of our country’s history.”
Arlington residents in the Crystal City community wish to distance themselves from the Confederate history of the region and have organized a petition to advocate for the change.
One resident, Daniel Zim, created a petition that has gathered over 4,000 signatures of local residents.
“Davis was an unrepentant white supremacist who fervently believed the Southern cause, slavery and segregation were right and just until his last dying breath in 1889,” he said on his petition website.
“It is therefore outrageous that a major Virginia thoroughfare, Jefferson Davis Highway (aka Route 1) which abuts the Pentagon and other US Capital landmarks continues to bear the name of a morally depraved, non-Virginian who rejected the very idea of a United States.”
The latest push for change is led by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce as well as local activists. The Chamber of Commerce initiative, led by Government Affairs Manager Scott Pedowitz, explained at a city council meeting in May that businesses along Route One are negatively impacted by having an address with the Jefferson Davis.
The Arlington County Board voted unanimously for the change and the Commonwealth Transportation Board recently approved it. In a press release issued by the Arlington County Board the details of the change were released to the public.
“Arlington will pay for the new street signs (estimated to cost about $17,000),” said the Arlington County Board in the official press release.
“No street numbers will be changed, and the United States Postal Service will, in perpetuity, continue to deliver mail to the business and residences along the highway addressed to Jefferson Davis Highway.”
The press released also noted that the Arlington stretch of Route One will officially be renamed Richmond Highway.
The change is a win for progressive advocates. However, advocates like Zim say that the work is far from over. There are still other counties in Virginia that bear the Jefferson Davis name.
The portion of Arlington highway adopted the Jefferson Davis name in 1922 through advocacy by the Daughters of Confederacy, a nonprofit that seeks to commemorate Confederate history. The Daughters of Confederacy could not be reached for a comment.