Stephen F. Austin, known also as the “father of Texas” is often credited with carving out the early outlines of Texas, so perhaps it is apt that the capital of the Lone Star state is named after him.
Except, hold that thought.
Or at least that’s what Austin’s Equity Office wants you to do after a report by the office about existing Confederate monuments pointed out that Austin (the person) was a staunch supporter of slavery and what the Confederacy stood for.
For example, as CNN notes, Austin “fought to defend slavery in spite of Mexico’s effort to ban it,” and also “believed slave labor indispensable for Texas to flourish.”
The icing on top of the cake: Austin “believed that if slaves were emancipated they would turn into ‘vagabonds, a nuisance and a menace,’” and apparently sought to make sure slave owners were compensated if their slaves were freed.
The report, which was released last week included the city’s name in a list of city assets considered “not explicitly Confederate and/or Civil War related but were within the spirit of the resolution representing segregation, racism, and/or slavery.”
The list included some 10 streets named for William Barton, a slave owner, Pease Park, the Boulden Creek neighborhood and Barton Springs, the Austin American-Statesman noted.
According to the American-Statesman, those streets and parks are only suggested for reconsideration. The name of the city itself, as well as Bouldin Creek and Pease Park and the Barton-named landmarks, are low on the list, marked as “assets for secondary review.” However, there are other streets related to the Confederacy that are marked for more immediate action, including Littlefield Street, Tom Green Street, Sneed Cove, Reagan Hill Drive, Dixie Drive, Confederate Avenue and Plantation Road.
To rename these streets would cost an estimated $5,956.
So when all is said and done it’s not as if Austin is getting a new name tomorrow, if at all, as the process would likely require an election. But it has definitely acknowledged the problematic nature of the city’s name, as well as raised the issue in general.
The report also nodded to those who may oppose name changes as erasing history, and noted the inconvenience that can be caused to businesses and homeowners. “A slippery slope of what’s next and where do we stop?”, the report marked as an opposing viewpoint.
However, the report also concluded that “societal values are fluid,” noting that things have changed (a lot) since the city was originally founded.
“It is essential to acknowledge that societal values are fluid, and they can be and are different today compared to when our City made decisions to name and/or place these Confederate symbols in our community. It is also important to acknowledge that nearly all monuments to the Confederacy and its leaders were erected without a true democratic process,” the report noted. “People of color often had no voice and no opportunity to raise concerns about the City’s decision to honor Confederate leaders. This process not only calls attention to remediating symbols of the Confederacy in our City, but creates a new opportunity for us to rename these symbols in order to commemorate the current values and legacy of those we choose to honor in our community’s public spaces.”