A highway in Florida won’t be keeping its name much longer after a county voted to change the name of a handful of “Dixie” highways to “Harriet Tubman Highway.”
Miami-Dade County commissioners unanimously approved plans Wednesday to rename portions of The Dixie Highway, which runs 5,786 miles through 10 states from Michigan to Miami, according toCNN affiliate WPLG.
“The time is always right to do what is right,” said Miami-Dade District 9 Commissioner Dennis Moss, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.
Depending on your perspective, the word Dixie takes on a different meaning for different people. Most commonly, it’s associated with the old South and Confederate states. Dixie was considered the land south of the Mason-Dixon line, where slavery was was legal.
Moss started looking into the name change after reading a letter from a man named Modesto Abety, former CEO of the Children’s Trust in Miami-Dade County.
Abety’s granddaugther asked him why “Dixie” was still on the name of the roadways considering its association with slavery, Moss told CNN.
“I moved forward with legislation and of course I did it because Dixie is associated with the southern Confederate states,” he said.
Moss said the injustice has been hiding in plain sight for years, but he’s grateful and proud his colleagues understand the importance of this name change and what the term Dixie has stood for in the past.
The decision to rename Dixie Highway after Tubman came as a suggestion from Abety’s granddaughter.
“She was the antithesis of slavery,” Moss said. “I thought that suggestion was a good suggestion.”
It’s important to Moss to set a precedent by not only removing the Dixie name from roadways that Miami-Dade County controls, but to urge the state of Florida to remove it from roadways in which it has jurisdiction.
While the name change was approved by Miami-Dade County commissioners, it’s up to each state to act on other parts of the highway. State lawmakers will need to go through their own approval process for the parts each state owns.
The support hasn’t been entirely unanimous, but to Moss’ surprise, he said there’s been little opposition.
It’s unclear just how much the renaming process will cost the county, but Moss said he and his colleagues are prepared to do whatever it takes to see that they are changed once and for all.
“If this was an Adolf Hitler Highway, or if this was in our community, a Fidel Castro Highway, [the money] wouldn’t even be a consideration as it relates to changing the signs,” Moss said. “So let’s not allow that to be an impediment and let’s do what’s right.”