Down in Florida, they’ve taken a street whose name is the source of great racial tension and strife and replaced it with the name of a president who is the source of great racial tension and strife.
The town of Riviera Beach has renamed “Old Dixie Highway” in honor of President Obama at a ceremony Thursday. The move – city leaders say – should help the community move past its segregated history, the Sun-Sentinel is reporting.
It’s not even the first Barack Obama road in Palm Beach County. In 2013, the town of Pahokee renamed East First Street to Barack Obama Boulevard.
At the ceremony, a crowd cheered as the “Old Dixie Highway” sign came down and the new “President Barack Obama” sign was raised.
“We are stepping up to a new day, a new era, and replacing Old Dixie with Barack Obama, who represents change,” Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters told Sun Sentinel news partner WPEC-Ch. 12.
The City Council voted in August to change the highway’s name inside the city limits. The first intersection of roads named after Obama and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will be in Riviera Beach, city officials say.
Some speakers at that August Council meeting didn’t think the street name Old Dixie was a good representation of the city.
“The name Old Dixie does not align in any way with the goal of racial and social equality,” Kendra Williams, a Riviera Beach resident, said during the meeting. “Let’s just move forward and move on, because it’s time.”
Other thoroughfares elsewhere have been recently named in honor of presidents, said Sean MacDonald, addressing technician for Palm Beach County.
In 1998, the Florida Legislature designated the Florida Turnpike the Ronald Reagan Turnpike.
Delray Beach renamed Northeast Eighth Street in honor of George H.W. Bush during the early 1990s.
About Robert Gehl
Robert Gehl is a college professor in Phoenix, Arizona. He has over 15 years journalism experience, including two Associated Press awards. He lives in Glendale with his wife and two young children.