Story at a glance
- The Reconciliation in Place Names Act aims at renaming public spaces with offensive names.
- It is sponsored by Sens. Markey and Warren, along with more than 25 House members.
- This comes as the Black Lives Matter protests renewed attention to names of public and private institutions.
Three members of Congress reintroduced a bill Friday that would revise national historic sites with offensive names, in a continued bid to address and dismantle America's history of slavery and institutional racism.
Dubbed the Reconciliation in Place Names Act, the bill’s main sponsors are Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Rep. Al Green (D-Texas). It would work to overhaul the names or public spaces including national parks and forests, wilderness areas, and geographical and structural landmarks.
Some of the names the legislation would rename are derived from the Civil War-era Confederacy and legacy of slavery in the U.S. In 2015, there were at least 1,441 public spaces identified as having problematic names.
“We need to immediately stop honoring the ugly legacy of racism and bigotry, and that’s why I’m introducing the Reconciliation in Place Names Act with my colleagues,” Warren said in a press release. “This is about ending egregious expressions of systemic racism and bigotry, and taking a step toward dismantling white supremacy in our economy and society. It’s about building an America that lives up to its highest ideals.”
A version of this bill was originally introduced in the 116th Congress by then-Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who is now the secretary of the Interior. Green was a sponsor of that bill.
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names currently manages the naming processes of all public sites and national landmarks. The bill aims to expedite the process and create a board of qualified professionals to give feedback regarding the name changes.
There would also be a period for the public to comment. There is no detail on funding for the advisory board or name change.
Organizations including The Wilderness Society, Hispanic Access Foundation, NativeOutdoors, Defenders of Wildlife, The Geological Society of America, and the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute have endorsed the bill, and 25 other House members and 5 other senators have co-sponsored the bill.