The Harriet Tubman Highway in South Florida has been unveiled after many county workers and a very determined teenager called for the removal of the road’s previous problematic “Dixie Highway” title.
“South Dixie Highway was dedicated 50 years after the Civil War in 1915. This was a time when Women of the Confederacy (a.k.a “Dixie”) made it their mission to name as many streets and public buildings to honor Confederate Generals, and their beloved Dixie, as they could,” Isabella Banos wrote in a “Letter to the Editor” in 2019, which also marked the 400th anniversary of slavery and a slave-based economy.
The Saint Brendan High School student highlighted the “shameful part of our history” and urged the county to change the Dixie Highway name, adding that “one of Miami-Dade’s main corridors should not honor this terrible legacy.”
Banos suggested that “the best historical figure to represent this monumental fight is none other than Harriet Tubman.” She wrote that Tubman’s work as an abolitionist and political activist made her the perfect candidate for an alternative name choice.
She later wrote, “Additionally, she served as a spy on the Union side, and fought for the United States in the Civil War. Her legacy was such that President Barack Obama chose her to be the face on our $20 bill. Sincerely.” Banos, whose race was not disclosed, felt compelled to write the letter after she asked her grandfather Modesto Abety, during a car ride, why the highway was named “Dixie.”
Two years and countless city and county meetings later, the switch was agreed upon and honored with a renaming ceremony at Vizcaya Metrorail Station in Miami-Dade, Florida, according to The Miami Herald. The city of Coral Gables decided unanimously to change its portion of the road formally known as U.S. 1 earlier this year.
The newspaper reported that nine cities and the county have passed resolutions to remove the Dixie Highway road signs. Still, several other cities in Florida and other Southern states that share the more-than-5,000-mile highway will keep the name.
Banos told the Herald “It’s been a long journey.” The teenager continued, “To see all of this in fruition and finally see my first sign, I can’t describe the feeling. I’m just so happy my question turned into something this significant.”
Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis Moss spoke on some of the pushback they received following the request in a statement made at the ceremony. “Some have said, ‘Get over it,’ ” Ross revealed. “If there was a Fidel Castro Highway in Miami-Dade, would we say ‘Get over it?’ ”
He continued, “It would not just be no, it would be hell no. … The time is always right to do something right.”
“We can not forget slavery,” Florida State Rep. Dotie Joseph added. “We can not forget the ramifications of it.”