Movement afoot of effort to change name of LR's Confederate Boulevard | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Movement afoot of effort to change name of LR's Confederate Boulevard

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 7:21 AM

click to enlarge CONFEDERATE BLVD.: It runs roughly from Little Rock National Cemetery (marked U.S. Governent on the map) south to the railroad overpass south of 30th Street.
  • CONFEDERATE BLVD.: It runs roughly from Little Rock National Cemetery (marked U.S. Governent on the map) south to the railroad overpass south of 30th Street.
Channel 4 reports of an effort underway to rename Confederate Boulevard, perhaps to the same as its southern extension of Springer Boulevard, after a pioneer family in the Granite Mountain area.

The existing roadway passes Little Rock National Cemetery, which includes burial plots for hundreds of Confederate soldiers (and, not incidentally, one of the few monuments in Arkansas to Union war dead.)

The street became controversial some years ago when an Eastbelt Freeway exit sign that marked Confederate Boulevard was changed to Springer Boulevard. Strictly speaking, this made the exit sign more accurate, because the ramp delivered motorists initially to Springer, not Confederate, but no one doubted that the impetus for the change was to remove the ill appearance of an homage to the Confederacy for people arriving at Clinton National Airport to attend the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library.

Confederate, in addition to the National Cemetery, is home on its short course between the cemetery and the old Rock Island tracks to a scattering of businesses, a rescue mission, the city's center for the homeless and is adjacent to small neighborhoods that are predominantly black.

Channel 4 quotes City Director Kathy Webb in support of a name change.

"Having something like a street or the flag its a symbol of slavery and it's a symbol of oppression and I don't think it's something we need to have," says Little Rock City Director Kathy Webb.

Webb says the time is right to change the name, "It came about partially as a result of the horrible massacre in Charleston but I think it was also something that's been on peoples' minds for quite some time."

Some residents are working to collect signatures to petition the city to change Confederate Blvd. to Springer Blvd. after Reverend Horace Springer a community leader in the first after of the 20th century.

The efforts are being led by Little Rock Doctor Anika Whitfield who we spoke with over the phone.

"Confederate Blvd. is a constant reminder that in the south there is a strong sense of both covert and over racism against people of color," Dr. Whitfield says.

Organizers need to obtain signatures from 50 percent of the property owners on the street to take a name change proposal to the City Board of Directors.

Some history for you on the roots of the National Cemetery and its Confederate burial ground from the National Cemetery website:

Early in the Civil War, the land that is currently the national cemetery was located outside city limits and was used for Union encampments. With Union troops still occupying the city in 1866, a portion of the new city cemetery was purchased by the government and set aside for military interments.

The government purchased the military plot in Little Rock City Cemetery as two parcels: 9.1 acres in September 1866 and 3.2 acres in April 1868. On April 9, 1868, it was designated a national cemetery with the stated purpose to concentrate remains of Union dead who had been buried throughout Arkansas. By this time, there were 5,425 interments: 3,092 known dead and 2,333 unknowns. In 1868, 1,482 remains removed from area battlefield graves were reinterred here.

In 1884, an 11-acre Confederate cemetery was established adjacent to the national cemetery. The remains of 640 Confederate soldiers were removed from Mt. Holly Cemetery in Little Rock and reburied here. In 1913, Congress authorized the Secretary of War to accept a deed from the City of Little Rock for the Confederate cemetery, with the restriction that only Confederate veterans could be interred on the newly acquired land. In 1938, this restriction was removed and the Confederate cemetery became the Confederate Section of Little Rock National Cemetery.

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