The long road to Harriet Tubman’s name replacing Dixie Highway is now a lonelier road without Coral Gables supporting it in Miami-Dade County, Fl. Maybe a dead end. Would it help to go with just her first name? HARRIET HIGHWAY?
Did you know slaves were not legally allowed to marry in 1844? So, Harriet just entered a marital union with a free black man, John Tubman, while giving herself the name Harriet. As she bravely helped slaves escape to freedom, her husband refused to join her and re-married a free black woman.
Known as the “Moses of her people,” Harriet was enslaved, escaped, and helped others gain their freedom as a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad. Harriet served as a scout, spy, guerrilla soldier, and nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War. She was also the first African American woman to serve in the military.
So, in the name of equal rights and the precious freedom for which she so valiantly fought, I move we make Dixie a higher road. We make it stand for something noble and admirable.
We rename it Harriet Highway.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County backers of renaming the state road face setbacks in Tallahassee and Coral Gables. Coral Gables is the only local government in Miami-Dade to reject adding Harriet’s name to 42 miles of U.S. 1, a federal andstate road called Dixie Highway for a century.
County commissioners endorsed the switch last year from a name often linked with the Confederacy and racism with the name of the country’smost famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad network used to free enslaved Americans before the end of the Civil War.
Passed unanimously in February 2020, the county resolution only created Harriet Tubman Highways off a few Miami-Dade roads that run along U.S. 1, which carried the names “West Dixie Highway” and “Old Dixie Highway.”
Swapping “Harriet Tubman” for all of “Dixie” on U.S. 1 itself requires a state process that could take years, allowing businesses along the highway time to update letterhead and promotional materials with the new address, which I’m sure many would gladly do.
But first, the Florida Legislature needs to approve the change. With just two weeks left to go in the 2021 session, supporters are not very optimistic.
“Right now, it’s stalled. Dead,” said Sen. Shevrin Jones, the West Park Democrat who is a sponsor of the Senate version of the legislation, SB 1216.
“We’ll have to do it again next year,” the Miami Herald quoted him saying.
I can hear Harriet and the many slaves she saved applauding from heaven.
Tom Madden is an author, speechwriter and public relations expert who is founder and CEO of the international PR firm TransMedia Group (www.transmediagroup.com). Prior to launching the firm in New York City, Madden was Vice President, Assistant to the President, of NBC and was head of PR Planning at American Broadcasting Companies. Among his books are his autobiography “Spin Man” and “King of the Condo,” a murder mystery thriller that satirically depicts life in a Florida condo based on his own harrowing experience as a condo president. His latest book WORDSHINE MAN is due out this summer. He currently writes a blog called “MaddenMischief’ (https://maddenmischief.com/), which chronicles his sometimes whimsical, comical and critical views on politics, media and other subjects.