KVUE — Across the United States and in Central Texas, the names of roads and schools have changed because of their ties to the Confederacy. A recent report on a memo given to City Council said Austin itself might also need a new name.
“I don’t think I would change it because we’d have to change all our slogans. We’d have to reprint all those 'Keep Austin Weird' T-shirts, like what would we be,” asked one Austinite. “They’d kill an industry!”
Brion Oaks, the chief equity officer with the City of Austin, cleared the confusion up. “I highly doubt that Austin is going to be changing its name, but I know that has been grabbing the headlines,” said Oaks. “But I think for the public, it is really important to look at some of the history behind some of our historic Austin figures.”
Oaks said council asked the Equity Office to do research into a resolution passed in October. “To conduct research and look at any of our city-owned assets that could potentially be tied to the Confederacy and Civil War and also kind of connected with the history of slavery," Oaks said.
Oaks said they presented two lists in the memo.
The first list, “Assets Slated for Initial Review,” included seven street names. “These were assets that we identified that were directly connected with leaders in the Confederate Army, so they were really close in line with the language in the resolution,” said Oaks.
The second list, which included the city of Austin, was a continuation of the research, Oaks said. “[The second list] was sort of a little bit broader look at historical figures that had more relationships or ties to either slavery or segregation or racism within the area of the city,” Oaks said.
One of the historical figures was Stephen F. Austin. “He was a slave owner and played a prominent role in helping Texas to preserve slavery during the war with Mexico,” Oaks said.
Oaks laughed when asked if that meant a new name was coming to the city. “No, not at all. Part of it is doing that research and Stephen F. Austin is one of those historical figures that also played prominent in not only establishment of Texas, but also played prominent in slavery within the state,” said Oaks.
He said those with the Equity Office are asking the council to focus on the first list, and explained the second list is there to show all of the possible Confederacy or slavery ties within the city.
Oaks said he didn’t have a timeline on when City Council will decide if some street names will be changed. He said he expects more guidance from the council when they return from July break.
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