Atlanta's Confederate Avenue fades into history

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ATLANTA (AP) — Residents in an Atlanta neighborhood are celebrating the renaming of Confederate Avenue.

But the fate of Atlanta's many other Civil-War themed streets and markers remains undecided.

The switch from Confederate Avenue to "United Avenue" is among the latest changes amid nationwide debate over Civil War-themed monuments and symbols, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The newspaper reports that Atlanta is home to at least 25 streets believed to be named for military figures and leaders who supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.

A panel in 2017 recommended that other Atlanta streets be renamed, just as Confederate Avenue was. A city council committee is now exploring how to carry out that recommendation.

The panel which had been convened by former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed recommended that the city immediately change the names of the streets honoring John B. Gordon, a Confederate general who was the head of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia after the Civil War.

The panel also called for immediate changes to streets named after Robert E. Lee; Nathan Bedford Forrest, a founder of the Ku Klux Klan; Stephen Dill Lee, a Confederate soldier and founder of an organization that championed the Lost Cause; and Howell Cobb, an opponent of Reconstruction.

The city council's street names committee will meet again in the coming weeks.

With the exception of Confederate Avenue, which was named for a convalescent home on the street that served the war's veterans until 1941, it took a great deal of research to determine whether street names such as Lee, Forrest, and Cobb were in honor of rebel leaders, the Atlanta newspaper reported.

"It takes a bit of detective work," said Doug Young, assistant director of urban design and historic preservation for the city. "There isn't always explicit evidence as to why a street has a name."

Arthur Breland, pastor of Woodland Hills Baptist Church, called the renaming of Confederate Avenue "a landmark moment in the history of the city.

"We shouldn't forget history," Breland said. "The history of the Confederacy and Civil War should be taught in schools and displayed in museums, but we should not memorialize them and celebrate them. They may have fought nobly, but the cause they fought for was not noble."