In Atlanta, the city is considering renaming Confederate Avenue. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the mayor wants to rename Stonewall Street, named after Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In Hollywood, Florida, local commissioners had a preliminary vote in July to rename streets named after the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Throughout the South, there are more than a thousand streets named after Confederate leaders. A map from historian Caroline Klibanoff shows them by state, side by side with streets named for civil rights leaders.
“I’m from the South, from Atlanta, originally,” says Klibanoff, digital public historian at Northeastern University. “I’m a historian, and I’m very interested in the stories that we tell about ourselves–beyond the official story and the official record, what are the stories that people are really interested in, and on top of that, what does the data say. This was a way to gather the data into a visualization that would allow people to see their own place in the story. It’s a very local type of data, so that provided a good place to start.”
The maps may not be fully complete. Klibanoff searched through 6.8 million street names using a list of Confederate names such as Buckner, Braxton, Bragg, and Robert Lee, but didn’t include “Lee” alone, since a Lee Street might conceivably be named for someone else. John Calhoun–a former U.S. vice president who died before the Civil War, but whose face was on Confederate currency and who argued that slavery “was a positive good”–was not included because he had a role that went beyond his posthumous association with the Confederacy.
Confederate street names are also found outside the former Confederacy; even Alaska has three streets named after Confederate leaders. In Brooklyn, New York, the Army is under pressure to rename Stonewall Jackson Drive and General Lee Avenue at Fort Hamilton, a military base. In San Diego, Jefferson Davis Highway still has street markers (the highway, promoted by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the early 1900s, was initially planned to stretch from the Pacific to Arlington, Virgina; though it was never completed, pieces of it still cross the country).
“I think that the work that was done to unite the country after the Civil War allowed the country to turn a blind eye to what the Confederacy was really about,” says Klibanoff. “As a way of allowing these memorials to stand, it kept the peace between the north and the south that had been the confederacy and the union. But in reality that was allowing this agency of white supremacy and slavery to persist as an okay thing to defend.”
In another map, Klibanoff shows streets named “Dixie,” after the nickname for the South.
Next, she hopes to build a bigger project called the Digital Atlas of Southern Memory that shows how street names change with each new census, and that will also include monuments, names of schools, churches, and other memorials.