top of page
NEXT PUBLIC MEETING: May 1 , 7:30 p.m. at Pohick Regional Library. All are welcome.

Why Fenton? Why Now?

Fairfax County is renaming roads, magisterial districts and schools that previously honored Confederate war heroes. An African-American History class is taught at some secondary schools. Silas Burke isn’t a big focus of the curriculum, but I believe his days as a town namesake are just one class project away. It’s inevitable: Two of Virginia’s three largest public schools are here.

The question is what to replace his name with. I believe there are helpful ways and unhelpful ways to go about this.

Here’s an example of an unhelpful way to retire a 19th century relic: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from grounds near the state capitol in Richmond. The statue went away to be melted down. Today, theres empty space where it once stood. That means there’s no opportunity to point at it and talk about Lee and what entire generations of southerners got horribly wrong.

Perhaps the state government should have erected a scaffold around the Lee statue and covered it with tarps while a sculptor made a likeness of Mary Richards Bowser. It could have been installed 5 yards from Lee's likeness, and it could have stood 10 feet taller. 


Wait. Mary who


Bowser was a slave who agreed to work undercover as an enslaved servant in Jefferson Davis’s “Confederate White House.” She read Davis’s documents and notes and, aided by a photographic memory, reported her findings to Elizabeth Van Lew — who was one of America’s most accomplished and unsung spymasters.


Imagine a bronze statue of her towering over Robert E. Lee. It would demand questions and answers about why.

We need that in Burke. With the town called “Fenton,” the name “Burke” will still hang around on streets and strip malls like vestigial organs. Children will wonder about the juxtaposition of the county judge and the “Negro boy” he bought for $206. Teachable moments will come.


That’s the entire point.

bottom of page