Should Hollywood streets named after leaders of the Confederacy be changed? A number of residents including members of the African American Advisory Council believe so and the Hollywood Commission is taking a look at this issue.
During a recent meeting, members of the Commission discussed the matter as well as some of the problems that might arise if street names were changed. A group of residents have said they want the streets named after Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, John Hood and Nathan Bedford Forrest changed. Some people have suggested those streets be renamed after leaders from the Civil rights movement. Of special concern is the street named after Nathan Bedford Forrest. He is considered the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that has long terrorized African Americans.
The African American Advisory Council held a meeting on June 7 at Hollywood City Hall. The Council voted to recommend to the Hollywood Commission that the signs named after Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, John Hood and Nathan Bedford Forrest be changed.
The movement is not without precedent. As recently as this past May elementary schools in Austin, Texas and San Diego, California ditched their Confederate namesakes.
Mayor Peter Bober said he believes the residents of the streets in question should be consulted on how they feel about their street names. “We should talk the people who live on these streets and ask them how they feel about their street names. They should know we are considering changing the names of the streets they live on,” said Bober. “If we change the names of the streets, we will be doing so because it is the moral thing to do. I understand how African Americans feel about this.”
Vice Mayor Peter Hernandez said that many people, even people who live on the streets in question, don’t know about the people who have streets named after them. He suggested that one letter be removed from Forrest and that the street be renamed Forest Street. He believes this would make it easier for home and business owners on the street.
During public comments, Benjamin Israel, a leader in the effort to get the names of the signs changed, focused on changing the name of Forrest Street. “This should not be considered a local racial issue. Forrest was a sociopath who founded the Ku Klux Klan,” he said.
Commissioner Linda Sherwood asked fellow commissioners if it would be possible to just change the names of the streets in the Liberia neighborhood. This is a historically African American neighborhood.
Commissioner Patricia Asseff said it would not be right to change the street names in one neighborhood. She believes if a change to a street sign is to be made, it should be made from one side of Hollywood to the other and that the residents on those streets should be allowed to decide if the names should be changed.
Commissioner Traci Callari said she is concerned that if the names of the streets are changed, an important historical reminder will be lost. She believes it is important that people remember unpleasant times in U.S. history like slavery, even though this topic is very sensitive.
“We are not trying to ‘change history,’ we are merely trying to set the record straight,” stresses the creator of a Change.org petition related to the issue. “People who fought to defend slavery are not heroes and should not be celebrated. Abolitionists—people who fought to end slavery—are the people we should honor.”
Commissioner Dick Blattner said he understands the feelings of residents who want the street names changed and would like to make the process easier and less expensive.
Concerns have been raised about the cost of renaming and the inconvenience it would cause residents who live on those streets as they would have to change the names on important documents. Also, there would be issues involving the U.S. Post Office if the street names were to be changed.