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Baton Rouge officials to hear case for renaming streets honoring Confederate figures

A view of the Mississippi River from the Louisiana State Capitol’s observation deck. Photo taken Nov. 12, 2021.
Aubry Procell
A view of the Mississippi River and downtown Baton Rouge from the Louisiana State Capitol’s observation deck. Photo taken Nov. 12, 2021.

The East Baton Rouge Metro Council will hear the case for renaming Baton Rouge streets that are currently named after individuals associated with the Confederacy in a Wednesday afternoon meeting. An advisory panel has identified and studied the street names in question since May, the Advocate reports.

The panel approached a metro council committee with a list of 16 streets named after Confederate figures and white supremacists. That list comes from a broader project by the Southern Poverty Law Center documenting monuments, roadways and sites honoring Confederate figures.

No actions will be considered at Wednesday’s meeting — only a presentation of the committee’s findings. Even if the Metro Council decides to take action in the future based on the panel’s findings, the city’s Unified District Code makes it nearly impossible to change a street name without support from residents in the form of a petition.

Committee member and city-parish attorney Courtney Humphrey said she hasn’t heard any ideological opposition to the street renaming effort, “but the factor of ‘cost’ has been a point of discussion among the committee members.”

Metro Council member Erika Green argued that an office or committee should be created with the sole focus of investigating Confederate street names and “keeping these conversations going” at an advisory committee meeting Monday.

Researchers on the panel found that stripping neighborhood and street names of their ties to the Confederacy could benefit the city by removing a factor that hurts Baton Rouge’s national reputation and convinces young adults to settle down elsewhere.

In their research, the panel found that the neighborhoods of Southdowns, Shenandoah and Hermitage Oaks each had multiple streets named after Confederate figures. The developer of Southdowns was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and it was billed as a “whites only” neighborhood when it was constructed in the 1920s.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held at 4 p.m., Dec. 8 in room 348 of Baton Rouge City Hall. The meeting will be livestreamed on the Metro Council’s website.

Aubry is a reporter, producer and operations assistant in Baton Rouge.