Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is the use of "Truxton Circle" as a neighborhood name a bad idea?

There are residents in the Bates/Truxton/ East Shaw area who find the neighborhood name of Truxton Circle offensive, since Navy Commodore Truxton was a slaveowner.
Since this blurb from neighborhood resident and historian Mari Maxwell from 2009 posted at her InShaw blog:
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I`ve heard of an objection to Truxton`s name because he was a slaveholder. The whole city is named for a big old slaveholder. Worse yet, we`ve got a big phallic symbol on the Mall in honor of Washington, not far from that other memorial from another slaveholder, Jefferson, who also owned a number of humans.

The big biography by Eugene S. Furguson has very little to say about Commodore Thomas Truxton and slavery. Just one paragraph speaking of a period of then Captain Truxtun`s life when he was a on financially shaky ground and his family was growing with 6 girls and two boys. And the family seemed to split their time between Cranbury, New Jersey and Philadelphia:

Their Negro servant, Hannah, was still with the family; but Captain Truxtun, influenced by his late friend Franklin`s stand on slavery, had set her free on condition that he never be called upon to support her, should she leave his employ. Apparently she had chosen to stay on.

The Franklin mentioned is Benjamin Franklin.

Then the question is why did Hannah choose to stay. A couple factors might explain, she`s a woman, possibly alone with no family, possibly no supportive Afro-American community in Cranbury, her age may`ve played a factor, and it`s 1794-95.

So Truxtun`s sin was owning at least one woman who didn`t leave when the opportunity to do so was presented.
For some that`s unforgivable and puts him in the same league as worse transgressors such as Washington and Jefferson. Others may not count it against him in light of what he has given to fledgling US Navy.
So there you have it. Yes, Commodore Truxton/Truxtun owned a slave.

How should it impact the use of Truxton Circle as a neighborhood name?

Is an attempt to brand the area bounded by New Jersey, Florida, New York and North Capitol Street with a single neighborhood name desirable?


Scott Roberts of Bloomingdale said...

chirp chirp?

Mari said...

What's with the bright lettering?

Scott Roberts of Bloomingdale said...

should I change the text to nonbright ?

IMGoph said...

Washington owned slaves too, so should we change the name of the city?

It's a goofy argument, if you ask me.

Bloomingdale Resident said...

Curious what prompted this post - did the topic come up recently in conversation, or reading Mari's old post?

This is one of those issues where I find it impossible to walk in someone else's shoes. Personally, I like historic names, especially in the case of the area being named for the original landowner. Yet, I can understand that there would be people who would find the name of a slaveholder (or dictator, or mass murderer )objectionable. However, I think that if I found the name objectionable, I would also not want to live on the land itself, if I knew that the land had been farmed by slaves and was soaked with their blood, sweat and tears.

That's just my immediate reaction and I would love to hear more from those who actually object. Doesn't sound like Mari does.

And here's a vote for restoring Truxton Circle and the fountain!!

Chris in Eckington said...

It should have no impact, and yes, I think branding that area with a single neighborhood name is desirable.

Scott Roberts of Bloomingdale said...

One of the motivations for this post is this Bates Area Civic Association (BACA) blog post on Shaw vs. Truxton:

Scott Roberts of Bloomingdale said...

Here is a response from a Bloomingdale resident: "Isn't the answer to the question of whether to use Truxton Circle as a neighborhood name an easy one? If we have the option to *avoid* naming another place for a slaveholder, we should! Simple."

Scott Roberts of Bloomingdale said...

Two tweets from Nina Brownlee:

Nina Brownlee ‏@inTheGreatRoom

U wouldn`t live on land farmed w/slaves blood, sweat & tears???? U do know u live in America...right -_- come on man #bloomingdaledc

Nina Brownlee‏ @inTheGreatRoom

@BloomingdaleDC Isn`t it called Truxton already? R we erasing history now, bcuz of some pseudo ``offensiveness``? #bloomingdaledc