Riviera Beach, Florida Changes “Old Dixie Highway” To “President Barack Obama Highway.”
Since the Confederate Flag controversy, cities across our nation are purging other symbols of our vile “heritage” of slavery, violence and racism as well. Last December, a cheering crowd gathered in Riviera Beach, Fla. to watch city workers remove the sign for “Old Dixie Highway” and replace it with a sign for the newly renamed “President Barack Obama Highway.” The Sun Sentinelreports the City Council voted to rename Old Dixie Highway, one of Riviera Beach’s main thoroughfares, back in August:
It is the second road in Palm Beach County to be named in honor of the 44th president, county officials said. Two years ago, Pahokee in western Palm Beach County renamed East First Street to Barack Obama Boulevard.
In a strong statement, Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters told WPTV 5 the name “Old Dixie Highway” is an inappropriate relic from the slavery and Jim Crow eras:
“[The Old Dixie Highway is] symbolic of racism, symbolic of the Klan, symbolic of cross burnings and today we are stepping up to a new day, a new era, and replacing Old Dixie with Barack Obama, who represents change.”
The Old Dixie Highway also carries many unfortunate memories for the neighborhood’s mostly-black residents. For starters, it served as the dividing line between the black and white neighborhoods. Dora Johnson told reporters she’d once witnessed a Ku Klux Klan cross burning along that same road many years ago. Upon seeing the sign go up she declared, “I’m over-happy, I’m over-happy.”
Victoria Kingdom, a resident of Riviera Beach for over 40 years, also recalls the racial slights and slurs she and her neighbors had to endure.
“On this very street, I was on my way to work at PGA, and a car passed me, rolled the window down, and called me an ugly name.”
Although our country has a long way to go before we’re fully free from our toxic racism, replacing the Old Dixie Highway sign with a new sign that honors our nation’s first black president takes an important step in the right direction. Plus, as Mayor Thomas Masters points out, there’s something else that’s very special about the intersection where the sign ceremony was held: It’s where President Barack Obama Highway and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard intersect. Or, as the mayor more picturesquely describes it:
“…where Doctor Martin Luther King Junior and his son, President Barack Obama will shake hands together.”
Here’s the video with WPTV 5’s report on the President Barack Obama Highway naming ceremony :