What’s in a name? For critics of the Texan capital’s moniker, it's some problematic roots that need to be addressed—and perhaps even consigned to the history books.
The city of Austin is named after the “father of Texas,” settler Stephen F. Austin, who worked against Mexico’s plan to outlaw slavery in the province of Tejas (now Texas), explains the Austin American-Statesman newspaper.
For this reason, the capital’s Equity Office has broached the idea of renaming the city itself. The suggestion was quietly put forth in a report [PDF] published this week concerning the remaining Confederate monuments in Austin. Much like the removal of Confederate statues in both Austin and across the U.S., the suggested name change is part of a larger push to stop glorifying historic figures who condoned or supported slavery.
But don't go changing your return address labels just yet: The city name change was only raised within a larger report on all the streets that would need to be renamed as part of the Confederate Monuments Resolution, which was passed last year. But the city has since stated that that's as far as the moniker adjustment is likely to go.
“I don’t know anyone who is seriously championing to change the name,” city spokesman David Green told The New York Times. “There are things in our past that we may want to acknowledge and look at, but that doesn’t mean you want to rename a city, especially one named after someone who founded a republic that then became a state.”
Originally, the city of Austin was just a small village called Waterloo, and it wasn’t rebranded as Austin until 1839, when the Republic of Texas was just three years old. A change.org petition to revert to the city's original name, which was started more than five months ago, has yet to garner even 20 signatures—even if “Keep Waterloo Weird” does have a certain ring to it. Still, any change to the capital’s name would probably require an election, because the city's name would need to be replaced on its charter, the Statesman reports.
Within the same report, the office also suggested changing the names of more than a dozen streets, parks, and neighborhoods in Austin, including Dixie Drive, Confederate Avenue, Plantation Road, and 10 streets named for William Barton, a slave owner.
This story has been updated to include the City of Austin's response to the initial publicity about the proposed name change.