Old Dixie Highway is no more in Riviera Beach, Fla. Instead, motorists are driving on President Barack Obama Highway.
Riviera Beach officials renamed the portion of the highway in their city limits, and the new sign carrying the name of the nation’s first black president went up Thursday. Old Dixie, officials said, paid homage to an era that glorified slavery.
The name was “symbolic of racism, symbolic of the Klan, symbolic of cross burnings, and today we are stepping up to a new day, a new era,” Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters told WPTV on Thursday.
The street itself carried a painful history for some. Dora Johnson, 77, told the television station that she once witnessed a cross-burning on Old Dixie Highway. Johnson will be given the old sign that has been removed, Masters told the Palm Beach Post.
The city council’s August vote to rename Old Dixie came at a time when many communities in the South were reconsidering Confederate flags and monuments. A national debate over such symbols began anew following the June shooting of nine parishioners by a white gunman inside a historic black church in South Carolina.
But Riviera Beach isn’t the only Florida city to make such a move. In 2013 the city of Pahokee in western Palm Beach County also renamed a street after the sitting president.
Florida cities aren’t alone in considering new actions to further erase their past history. In a lopsided vote, the city council in New Orleans, Louisiana, recently voted to remove all the Confederate statues in the city.