Broward County

Hollywood streets once named for Confederate generals now have positive vibes

Mayor Josh Levy listens to speakers during an August commission meeting on whether to change the names of streets that bear the name of Confederate generals. On Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, the commission changed the street names to Freedom, Hope and Liberty.
Mayor Josh Levy listens to speakers during an August commission meeting on whether to change the names of streets that bear the name of Confederate generals. On Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, the commission changed the street names to Freedom, Hope and Liberty. Miami Herald File

After a divisive battle over three Hollywood streets that bore the names of Confederate generals, the city commission on Wednesday renamed the roads to Freedom, Hope and Liberty.

“Fifteen years and now we have freedom, hope and liberty,” said Michael Anderson, pastor of New Jerusalem First Baptist Church in Hollywood, who has been critical of the city’s pace in making the change.

With no discussion or comments, the commission voted 6-0 — commissioner Peter Hernandez was absent — to change Forrest Street and Forrest Drive to Freedom Street and Freedom Drive, Hood Street to Hope Street and Lee Street to Liberty Street. The city’s engineer will now find a company to replace the signs and notify the county and agencies of the change.

Only a handful spoke before the vote — unlike the previous meetings where dozens of people spoke passionately both for and against the renaming.

The streets, which run through the heart of Hollywood’s African-American community, honor Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate Army in the Civil War; Gen. John Bell Hood, a commander in the Battle of Gettysburg during the same war, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate lieutenant general thought to be the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard. The renaming debate came amid a nationwide movement to remove Confederate statues and symbols from public spaces.

“It’s been over 15 years trying to make this change, and I would hope today would be the last day that I will come in front of you to ask for this change,” said Linda Anderson, who has lived in the city for more than 60 years and was one of the petitioners for the name change.

For years, Hollywood leaders put off making a decision because of potential costs to residents and small businesses. In July, the commission held a three-hour meeting where some decried erasing the city’s history while others sought to close the book on a painful past. The commission voted to have city staff look at the logistics of changing the names. The decision came about a week after a nasty protest that led to several arrests.

In August, commissioners agreed to change the names, but didn’t determine what the new names would be until an October workshop. August’s vote came about three weeks after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly.

On Wednesday, two people spoke against the measure.

Sylvia Koutsodontis, who owns a Lee Street accounting business, begged the commission to reconsider.

“I wish we would come up with other names,” she said. “If you were living on these streets, how would you feel?”

But others praised the commission.

“It’s about the values and the principles that we uphold in a society,” Carlos Valnera said. “The entire community needs this to happen.”

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