The march brought national attention to the violation of black voters in the Deep South, and brought about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, Edmund Pettus isn’t a name that should be associated with the movement. The activist group Students UNITE has started a petition to rename the bridge.
Throughout the country and even in Selma, not enough people know about Pettus and his KKK involvement, Gainey says. Instead of celebrating him, his name should be used as a lesson in the city’s racially charged past. Then, people should learn about activists like John Lewis and Amelia Boynton, Selma’s true leaders, Gainey says.
Though the petition is gathering steam and national spotlight, there isn’t a clear next move. Students UNITE has met with Selma mayor George Patrick Evans and have numerous awareness events planned for the march’s 50th anniversary, but the path ahead is still shadowy. For now, they’re using the attention to raise awareness for a second project, renovating the empty Tepper’s building in Selma to build a youth center. An Indiegogo campaign is already underway.
When it comes to renaming locations due to dubious namesakes, it’s tough to nail down a precedent. However, it has been done before. Here are five locations that have undergone successful name changes.
The parks were renamed Memphis Park, Health Sciences Park and Mississippi River Park, respectively, though those names could change in the future, according to USA Today.
At the University of North Carolina, students and faculty are pushing to rename Saunders Hall, a building named after former KKK Grand Dragon William L. Saunders. Starting a hashtag #KickOuttheKKK, protesters instead want to name the building Hurston Hall, after author Zora Neale Hurston, the first black female student to attend UNC, according to USA Today.
In August 2013, a street in Tulsa underwent a symbolic name change. Named Brady Street, after KKK member Wyatt Tate Brady, Tulsa’s city council voted 7 to 1 to rebrand the street in honor of Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. Signs that read “Reconciliation Way” were placed throughout the area, according to the New York Daily News. Read more…