A new Confederate Names Task Force, established July 13 by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, will review the names of Lee Highway (U.S. Route 29) and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (U.S. Route 50) within the county, recommend whether the roads should be renamed and, if so, suggest what their new names should be.
The decision followed work by the Fairfax County History Commission, which supervisors in June 2020 directed to inventory Confederate street names, monuments and public places within the county and research any legal or financial consequences of changing those names.
After the commission delivered its report last December to the supervisors’ Land-Use Policy Committee, board members tasked the commission with, among other things, providing information about changing the two highways’ names.
The newly established task force will be chaired by Evelyn Spain and have members appointed by the Braddock, Dranesville, Mason, Providence, Springfield and Sully district supervisors, as well as Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D). Those members include local residents and people representing homeowner associations, churches, historical groups, business interests and the county’s commissions on history and women.
Other task-force members, recommended by county staff, will include representatives from the NAACP, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Northern Virginia, Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations and the county’s Park Authority, Planning Commission and Transportation Advisory Commission.
The task force also will have access to historical information from other resources, including historical groups and members of minority communities.
The new group will begin meeting in late July or early August and is expected to produce its recommendations by year’s end. The task force will encourage public input during the process and coordinate its efforts with those of neighboring jurisdictions that also are mulling new names for those two roads.
If supervisors decide to move ahead with the task force’s recommendations, they likely will hold one or more public hearings early next year.
Officials have set aside $50,000 from the county’s general fund to support the task force and hire a facilitator to assist the group’s deliberations. If supervisors elect to change the names of one or both of the roads, the county will need to foot the cost of replacing the affected street signs.
County staff also recommend that supervisors consider providing financial help to property owners and businesses that would need to change their materials and facilities as a result of the new highway names.
If supervisors sought to rename the roads, they would need to make a formal request to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which would make the final decision, McKay said. The county also would have to cover costs associated with changing the affected street signs.
The History Commission did a “phenomenal job” of creating an inventory of Confederate-named roads, places and monuments, which merited the kind of formal examination the new task force now will undertake, McKay said.
“While we’re not prejudging what the final outcome is here, it’s important to have that diversity at the table and to understand the history of these roads and to understand the impact they have on our community and what the process would look like to untangle that,” McKay said.