Councilor Bellamy Defends Stance on Preston Ave. Name Change
Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy wants the city to acknowledge the blemishes in its past and change the name of Preston Avenue.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy wants the city to acknowledge the blemishes in its past and change the name of Preston Avenue.
He initially called for the road to be renamed three weeks ago because of its historical ties to slavery, and now he is reiterating that call for action.
Bellamy says he has heard concerns about the fiscal impact of renaming the road, and at the City Council meeting on Monday, January 7, those concerns were readdressed.
But Bellamy says the renaming of Preston Avenue - named originally after former slave owner Thomas Lewis Preston - can be done creatively, thus minimizing the financial impact.
At Monday night’s council meeting, community member Kevin Cox suggested councilors focus their time fixing “real issues in the city instead of renaming Preston Avenue.”
That suggestion was met with several outbursts from the crowd, and Bellamy responded that he feels honoring a man who owned 29 slaves with a street is a real problem.
Thomas Preston served in the Confederate army and served as the rector of the University of Virginia from 1864 to 1865.
“One of the biggest sins in my personal opinion of this country is owning of individuals who look like me, and the fact that once we know that we can then say, ‘well we know it, we can’t change it lets just continue to live our lives,’ I think is an issue, we can address the symbolic as well as the substantive simultaneously,” Bellamy said.
As far as the fiscal impacts of the renaming, Bellamy suggested the city could ceremoniously rename the street after Asalie M. Preston, an African-American educator who lived in Albemarle County in the 1920s and ’30s.
Bellamy says handling the renaming that way would still show the city does not support or defend slavery while eliminating concern from businesses along that stretch of roadway that would have to change all their stationary and signage.