Renaming the Corridor

In July 2021, the County Board of Arlington, Virginia, renamed Lee Highway to Langston Boulevard, honoring American abolitionist, attorney, educator, diplomat, and the first Black member of Congress from Virginia, John Mercer Langston. The renaming of the highway was a crucial step in LBA’s efforts to shape a more welcoming and equitable future for the corridor, in line with the larger community vision, Plan Lee Highway (now Plan Langston Boulevard). Initiated just one year prior, in May 2020, the renaming effort gained momentum through the national dialog stemming from the mass protests on racism and equality happening then throughout the United States.

Completed in record time, this project stands as a testament to the power of community. It was a uniquely grassroots effort driven by the determination and contributions of over sixty-five citizens from across Arlington's diverse communities, working in conjunction with the LBA. This is a story of our community, our history, and our future.

For more information on the timeline and to hear from some of the contributors, see the content below. For the complete history of the process, read the full project report. This content and the corresponding interviews were made possible by a historic preservation grant from Arlington County, Virginia.

Process Timeline

May 2020

Black man George Floyd is murdered by White police officer Derek Chauvin, igniting nationwide demonstrations and protests focused on entrenched issues of racial inequality and police brutality. The Arlington NAACP hosts a march in Arlington.

“Post-George Floyd…that incident triggered communities across America, including the NAACP, to carefully examine not just police practices, but…how folks were treated from the highest levels of our government.”
– JD Spain

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May 2020

July 2020

Given the social climate, LBA once again requests that Lee Highway be renamed and promotes a community-led process for doing so. The Arlington County Board approved LHA’s approach, and they jointly announced the beginning of the Lee Highway renaming process.

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July 2020

August 2020

Comprised of local community leaders, the LBA forms the Steering Group for the Renaming of Lee Highway to lead the effort.

“Ginger [Brown] and I knew a lot of people due to our involvement with Plan Lee Highway, and we involved dozens of them in the renaming process.”
– Sandi Chesrown

 

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August 2020

September 2020

Working Group

The Working Group for the Renaming of Lee Highway is formed from community and business representatives from across Arlington. The first Working Group meeting is held, and the renaming process and steps are defined.

“When we had [Working Group] meetings, everybody didn't always agree on things, and each community may have had their own concerns as it related to their community… that's what I liked about the process, that the Alliance took the initiative to engage with each community, to hear what they had to say because what may have excited me may not have excited another community.”
– Saundra Green

September 2020

October and November 2020

Community feedback is sought for the new name for Lee Highway. 186 options were submitted. The working group narrowed the list to 20, and a public poll was created and distributed for voting.

“Whenever the Alliance met with civic groups, they always met with Calloway as well… That's what I liked about the process. They were very transparent.”
– Saundra Green

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October and November 2020

December 2020

Following community input, the Working Group narrows the naming options down to five to submit to Arlington County. The Arlington County Board approves John M. Langston Boulevard.

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December 2020

January 2021

The LBA and Arlington County begin working with then-Del. Rip Sullivan to introduce a bill to rename Lee Highway to John M. Langston Boulevard.

“I reached out to Del. Rip Sullivan…he was very senior in the House Democratic caucus… and asked if he'd be willing to patron the bill to do this [rename Lee Highway], and he did.”
– Matthew Weinstein

January 2021

February 2022

HR 1854 is passed in the Virginia House and Senate and signed into law by then-Governor Ralph Northam; it authorizes Arlington County to officially change the name of US 29 (Lee Highway) to John M. Langston Boulevard within the county boundaries.

February 2022

July 2022

HR 1854 takes effect, and the Arlington County Board votes unanimously to rename U.S. Route 29 to the shortened Langston Boulevard.

NBC 4 Coverage >

July 2022

October 2022

Street and Highway signs across the county begin to change from Lee Highway to Langston Boulevard. The LBA unveils a mural of John M. Langston and hosts a renaming celebration to commemorate the change.

October 2022

Langston Boulevard Alliance received a historic preservation grant from Arlington County. We have partnered with Historic Preservationist, Bennett King to collect oral histories, incorporate multiple voices, and reach diverse audiences for presenting and preserving two important pieces of Langston Boulevard’s history— the renaming of Lee Highway to Langston Boulevard and the documentation and preservation of the corridor’s historic legacy businesses.

Arlington Provides New Historic Preservation Grants for 12 Projects

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