Lawmakers launch new effort to remove segregationist’s name from Chevy Chase Circle

D.C.-area Democrats on Capitol Hill hope again to remove the name of a segregationist from Chevy Chase Circle: Francis Newlands.

The developer — and longtime member of Congress — is memorialized with a fountain in the roundabout because of his role in founding the village in the late 19th Century.

But Newlands’ vision of that village was a white one, and he worked to ensure it was not accessible to Black or Jewish families, among others. He also called for the repeal of the 15th Amendment, which granted African American men the right to vote, and advocated for anti-immigrant policies.

While Confederate statues have come down and local roads have been renamed in the months since George Floyd’s murder, Newlands’ name remains in the circle despite a public outcry.

That’s because the roundabout straddles the D.C.-Maryland border, making it a federal matter, so U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland have introduced a bill in the Senate. Meanwhile in the House, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced a similar bill (and not for the first time).

“We should not be memorializing [Newlands] and the deeply harmful policies he stood for — the legacies of which are still impacting marginalized communities to this day,” Van Hollen said in a statement Tuesday.

“As we work to take meaningful action to root out the racism embedded in many of our institutions, we must also end the glorification of those who focused on promoting those policies.”

The Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers and the development company that Newlands founded — the Chevy Chase Land Co. — has gone on record backing the removal of its founder’s name. Cardin pointed out their support for removing the name in his statement on Tuesday.

“We can study and learn from his life and career, but we do not need a memorial to him and, by extension, the racist views he openly espoused,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to WTOP.com when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer. In a previous life, he helped edit The Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune.

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