Austin, Texas, considers renaming city over ties to slaveowner

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Austin, Texas, city leaders are working to clean up their streets by changing street names of racist leaders, and their efforts could extend to the city name itself.

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Austin, which is the Texas state capital, was named after Stephen F. Austin, named as the “father of Texas” who supported slavery and said if slaves were freed, they would turn into “vagabonds, a nuisance and a menace.”

The committee argues that Stephen Austin “fought to defend slavery in spite of Mexico’s effort to ban it; believed slave labor indispensable to Texas to flourish in its production of sugar and cotton; believed that if slaves were emancipated they would turn into ‘vagabonds, a nuisance and a menace.”

Austin also believed that slaveowners should be compensated if their slaves were freed, the committee members said.

In a wide-ranging report, Austin’s Equity Office suggested the following name changes:

Littlefield Street, named for Confederate Army Major George Littlefield; Sneed Cove, named for Sebron Sneed, Confederate provost marshal; and Confederate Avenue, a street located in a historically Black neighborhood.

Also recommended was changing the name of the Stephen F. Austin Drive and Stephen Austin Recreation Center.

The group wants any Confederate markers removed throughout the city as well.

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In compiling the list, chief equity officer Brion Oaks wrote that “nearly all monuments to the Confederacy and its leaders were erected without a true democratic process.

“People of color often had no voice and no opportunity to raise concerns about the city’s decision to honor Confederate leaders,” he continued. “This process not only calls attention to remediating symbols of the Confederacy in our city, but creates a new opportunity for us to rename these symbols in order to commemorate the current values and legacy of those we choose to honor in our community’s public spaces.”