City Council Votes to Rename Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery

By 
Katie Doar

 

Early this morning, the Lexington City Council made a unanimous decision to rename the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. The vote occurred as the July 2 Thursday meeting spilled into Friday morning.

Starting at 8 p.m., the meeting lasted 5 hours and saw around five dozen citizen comments for and against the decision, as estimated by Council member David Sigler. There were also 707 comments posted to the feed of the live recording of the meeting on Facebook.

Council does not yet have a replacement name, but they plan to come up with one by their September 3 meeting. In lieu of a committee, Council will solicit citizen input and conduct their own research in order to generate suitable options for a new name.

The deed to the cemetery was conveyed to the City by the Lexington Presbyterian church in 1949. It does not have any requirements or restrictions concerning the name. City Attorney Jared Jenkins confirmed that in order to change the name, a new ordinance will have to be developed.

Discussion revolved around the notion of erasing history, the present pain of black residents, and the potential loss of tourist dollars due to Lexington’s reputation as a destination for those interested in Confederate history.

Ultimately, all Council members expressed discomfort with the name and a readiness to change it.

Before the vote, Council member Marilyn Alexander made impassioned comments that, for other council members, seemed to put into perspective the damage of confederate icons to black residents.

She said that growing up here “was a confusing growth, a defeating growth. [There] was a feeling that was ingrained in me and so many other black people that have lived here: that the white people of Lexington held their heroes in reverence, so, therefore, that meant to me that Lexingtonians must have revered slavery, and therefore in their eyes, I must be a second class or a third class citizen.

Alexander also said that changing the name is “not for my benefit, it's not for my peers, black or white—it’s too late for all of that. But it’s for the benefit for those young people that have been speaking out, it’s a benefit for my children and grandchildren and for all of our children and more, for generations to come.”