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Sorry, Andrew Jackson, Seattle should rename its street named after you

In 1986, Ron Sims, the first black person to be a member of the King County Council, introduced a motion to repair his county’s recognition of history by changing its namesake from an obscure, pre-Civil War United States vice president and slaveholder to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The motion passed, barely, 5-4. With history’s twists as knotted as ever this Presidents’ Day 2017, CHS wonders if another namesake change is in order.

Today, Jackson Street runs from the Central District to the International District and honors the nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson:

King Street was named by David Maynard in his 1853 Plat of the Town of Seattle, one of the first three plats laying out the street grid. (The other two plats, north of Maynard’s, were filed by Carson Boren and Arthur Denny). Maynard, a staunch Democrat, named many of the streets in his plat for Democratic leaders, including Andrew Jackson, John B. Weller (Governor of California), and Joseph Lane (Oregon Territory’s Congressional delegate).

As was William Rufus Devane King, Jackson was also a slaveholder. Beyond his battlefield prowess, he is remembered for The Indian Removal Act. His populism and, apparently, temper have also become a historical model for the Trump administration.

For King County, it took a decade beyond the county council’s vote and an overhaul of the county seal.

In Seattle along Jackson, nothing would need to change in the near term beyond our intentions. The street has already had some of its historical legacy updated with the 2016 introduction of the honorary Ernestine Anderson Way along S Jackson St between 20th Ave South and 23rd Ave South. To easily reclaim the rest, might we suggest the convenient intersection of good intent and coincidence to honor Joe Jackson, the first president of the Seattle Urban League:

Although the African American community in Seattle was small compared to other cities’ population, Jackson’s work in the Seattle Urban League was much needed. During Jackson’s first year in Seattle Urban League he organized the Negro Health Week and Vocational Opportunity program. In September 1931, due to the unfortunate outcomes of the Great Depression, Jackson helped with the founding of the Unemployed Citizens’ League for African Americans to help with the alarming unemployment problem among Seattle’s Black workers. By the third year, Jackson and Seattle Urban League helped with the building of a secretarial school. They also held public forums for job opportunities and voting registration, two important topics in Seattle’s African American community during the Great Depression. Taking notice of the little attention Seattle’s African Americans received, he started to gather statistical information on their health, education, and employment for research purposes. In 1938, he also wrote a booklet for the Seattle Urban League and the title speaks for itself, “What to tell them; a booklet designed to be of special service to counselors, guidance workers and agencies, with reference to negro girls and boys in Seattle; and for the use of students themselves …”

Jackson also is reported to have played a key role in a pivotal episode in Seattle’s civil rights history as protests and public outcry led to the conviction of three Seattle police officers in the death of a 27-year-old black man.

Like the addition of the honorary Ernestine Anderson Way, a change for the rest of the street would require the City Council take up the cause and carry the resolution forward. This time, there would be no need for new signs. The new Jackson Street would be fully legislative and symbolic. But in times when we are reminded of the importance of words and intent and where it feels like so many of our deepest values are under attack, it also might be the kind of change and small victory we should be pursuing.

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30 thoughts on “Sorry, Andrew Jackson, Seattle should rename its street named after you

  1. Real world problems. I vote for reducing crime along Jackson fixing potholes, enticing good business and not obsess about names.

    • Perhaps if we didn’t venerate slaveowners and all around shitty people there might be some impact on how some people feel they are viewed, and the end result could be fewer people feeling disenfranchised and turning to a life of crime.

      Or sure, let’s do nothing else until we solve all crime.

    • @ privilege: I’ve lived almost my entire life in Seattle, and was not aware that Jackson St was named after Andrew Jackson, and I’m sure I am not alone….so it hardly “venerates a slaveowner.”

    • Someone at some time said, “hey, that was a great dude, let’s name a street after him!” That you weren’t aware of the origin of its name doesn’t mean it wasn’t intended to venerate Jackson.

      So do you feel differently now that you know its origin?

  2. Obviously a flawed man but a man of his time, and his battlefield prowess was instrumental in preserving the country from British domination during the War of 1812. Battle of New Orleans, among others. Helped to save the ountry during time of war vs. your other nominees accomplishments. Easy choice for me.

    • The Battle of New Orleans, which was fought two weeks after the War of 1812 officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. tsk tsk

    • Just because the Treaty was signed during preparations for the battle does not diminish the sacrifices, accomplishments or motivations of the combatants, who did not know the treaty was signed until months after the signing. Task task indeed.

  3. Once again Seattle. Get a grip. Please CHS, stop the slide. Get back to basics. Best local news blog I’ve ever read. But lately it’s been mediocre. I’ll still send money because you are what we have. But this stuff has to stop

    • No…Doesn’t make me uncomfortable at all. But the progressive obsession….almost a fetish……About race and gender has brought us Donald Trump. So like I said, get a grip.

  4. Jackson St isn’t even on Capitol Hill. Been reading you since you started this site and I can’t believe you have resorted to clickbaity sanctimony. This is so thirsty. I just lost quite a bit of respect for you. It’s almost as bad as fake news. You are literally stirring up drama, for what? So you can have a public circle jerk about how super non racist you are and get traffic directed here?

  5. Sweet idea Justin, an appropriate change for Jackson St. The King Co. logo is so much better now that they changed the name, and I do feel better living in a county that honors MLK instead of some undistinguished old guy. While changing Jackson is not the most pressing project facing us these days, it is important to keep honoring good people who do good work, as an inspiration for all of us to try to be better.

  6. Who cares? If it makes people feel good to rename a street because they are going to assauge their liberal guilt and right the wrongs of America by a street name, go for it. Gentrification may have kicked out many of the old residents of the CD, but a virtual signal like re-dedicating a street does something, right?

  7. I’m just disappointed. For almost ten years I thought you were better than the uptight Seattlite style “concern trolls” the rest of the country is starting to mock us for. The kind who make race issues out of non issues as thinly veiled attempts at bringing attention to themselves then gaslight the public it’s not really about them, it’s about {insert race here}.

    Many streets in town will have a racist past if you look hard enough, it won’t be that hard, and if you’re picking one off of Capitol Hill to get traffic to your site, well, a few streets down is Marion St. More stuff is named after Frances Marion in Washington and Oregon than Andrew Jackson. Marionberries, counties, so many places and streets are named after him around here. Frances Marion’s racism may have even surpassed Andrew Jackson’s. He was know for his ruthlessness against Native Americans and we have a significantly larger history with Native Americans here than African Americans.

    At any rate, the other article you used to try to smack me down didn’t have a smarmy-better-than-you headline that reeked of needing to make your legacy by joining the likes of people actively looking for stuff to call racist. When our residents perpetuate this stereotype we are famous for, it looks like it’s more about showing off how non racist you are than any kind of attempt at pure civic service and pride. It borders on overcompensating possibly deep seated racism issues within your own self, and it perpetuates an unfortunate stereotype of the Northwest. You’re better than this. At least, I thought you were. I wish traffic and money flow to your otherwise well done blog was better so you weren’t pulling stunts like this, but it’s your blog and you have bills to pay.

    Yes, it is our job to stay informed but you just made news out of nothing. You literally manufactured non news clickbait. Now we all know we are supposed to comb our street names with fine toothed combs to stir up racist pasts of their namesakes I guess? This city has so many other things it needs to focus on fixing right now. I fear your article inspiring more stuff like this that sucks money and attention from real current day issues like homelessness. Any money spent towards renaming streets even if it is as low budget as you project, is more money taken away from homeless people including African Americans and Native Americans, how are you going to feel then? Your blog will get traffic and potentially inspires copycats to do similar campaigns and then you actually become part of the problems contributing to further bankrupting our ability to help living people who need it, over chastising racist dead white men.