César Chávez Avenue, Dallas, Texas
"A project to hold up a hero for ourselves and our children"
On September 29, 2009 three Dallas City Council members
recommended studying the downtown section of Central Expressway between
Pacific and Grand for renaming in honor of Cesar Chavez. This was
by the Dallas Morning News.
Then, on 10-6-09 an
"Workable renaming solution for Chávez"
was posted by the Morning News in support of that
Expressway in honor of Cesar Chavez will create the only downtown Dallas
street named after a leader also honored with a Texas State
Holiday in his name. However, by stopping the renaming at Pacific,
and not going north of Pacific,
critical connections to Dallas Hispanic History will be lost. The renaming
should continue north, from where Pearl connects with Central at
Pacific, and include Moody.
Dallas City Archivist can find no documented sources for the names
of either Pearl or Moody.
would connect Cesar Chavez Avenue with many parts of Dallas Hispanic
History including St. Ann’s School in the heart of what used to be
Little Mexico. This section of Pearl is the largest Hispanic gathering place in the southwest every
weekend as families gather for one of the multiple services at Guadalupe
Many of those who attended St. Ann’s are now either leaders in Dallas,
or the parents, and/or grandparents of such leaders.
of Hispanic History in Dallas is to the benefit of everyone, especially
the 66% of DISD students who are Hispanic! That acknowledgement stops
short with the current City Council recommendation that does not include
anything north of Pacific to honor
Cesar Chavez. The simple addition of Pearl will connect all the way to the center of what was once known as
improvement must continue by fully honoring our history.
Below is a 2007 Dallas map of Moody and Pearl
north of Pacific, and Central Expressway south of Pacific, all in white.
The black line reflects the original Pearl recommendation and is not now
Below this line are
documents archived as of 9-29-09 when the recommendation for renaming
the downtown section of Central Expressway between Pacific and Grand was
recommended by three Dallas City Council members.
(Frequently Asked Questions are linked here.)
Reasons Pearl & Moody Streets should be renamed to honor César Chávez:
The internationally known name
César Chávez would be a positive addition to downtown Dallas as an
expanding cultural center. (By googling the three
words, César Chávez biography, links to hundreds of biographies on César Chávez
are returned. Those results are
linked here.) Such a street name would reflect the
multiple connections of César Chávez to Dallas as
documented in the Dallas Morning News.
The sources for both the Pearl
and Moody street names
on downtown Dallas streets by those names are unknown.
The Dallas City Archivist has been searching libraries and all available
resources for the sources of both these
names for years with no success. These and additional facts were confirmed by the
City Archivist in
a 4-22-09 letter. A web page on the Dallas
Public Library web site dedicated to this renaming process is
As of 7-5-09 there was no mention of Moody and Pearl.
It was closed to traffic in 1995
to create a plaza named in honor of César Chávez on May 5, 1995. This event
in the Dallas Morning News
The first section of Pearl
renamed in honor of César Chávez was a one block section in the center of
the Dallas Farmers Market.
The first building given
legal protection as a historic landmark related to Hispanic History in
Dallas was the historic St. Ann's School
located on Moody in the heart of Little Mexico. After several years in
another building, the currently protected building was constructed in 1927.
It was the first school to serve the
children of Little Mexico in a time of segregated education in Dallas. The
Ann's building is located on Moody, one block from where Pearl ends. Moody
is only two block long. Moody extends to the
past the end of Pearl as Pearl curves to the west and ends at the Cedar
Springs Road/Moody intersection. (A disconnected part of Pearl, not
part of the name change recommendation, continues to the north. The name on
that section of Pearl will remain unchanged.)
On Pearl at Ross, the
Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with
over 17,000 registered families, is where more Hispanics gather for worship each
Sunday than any other location in Texas. The Cathedral is about 7 blocks
south of St. Ann's on Pearl. The Guadalupe Cathedral was the
starting point for the largest and most peaceful civil rights march in the
history of Texas and the Southwest.
A photo album of the march is linked here.
For over five hours on April 9, 2006 all four lanes of Ross Avenue were
filled as an estimated 500,000 people marched in the peaceful spirit of
César Chávez, past the Cathedral,
crossing Pearl St.,
and on to Dallas City Hall.
Pearl Street passes within two
blocks of the
Latino Cultural Center.
Pearl has two exits going each
way off Woodall Rogers Freeway and a
DART Rail Station named Pearl.
The map below marks Moody & Pearl with a heavy dark line.
A one page pdf copy of the above information can be downloaded and printed
here. A copy in Word format, that may print out better, is
This form, with links active, is at
The 1945 map below is colored blue for the Hispanic areas of
Dallas and red for the African American areas of Dallas. A white line follows
Moody and Pearl Street to about where they end in 2009. The split at Live Oak is
where the roads splits in 2009 to go to Central Expressway. Central is the
yellowed line that was a railroad track when this map was made in 1945. The
original map is in the files of the Dallas Public Library. Other landmarks along Pearl are indicated in the
copy below. This copy can be printed out in grayscale (click
here) so multiple
black and white copies can be made for distribution as needed. It also can
be copied in color.
The above photo is cut from the center of the Dallas map, below, secured from the Dallas Public Library.
If you click on the thumbnail below of the 1945 Dallas map the full size map (28M
in size) will
(slowly) load. Once loaded you will quickly see the monumental changes to
our city over the past 64 years. The renaming of the contiguous section of Pearl
and Moody will help our city to acknowledge the long history of the Hispanic
citizens in our city.
The above map clearly shows the major concentration of Hispanic families, the blue
areas, were in the Little Mexico section of Dallas in 1945.
César Chávez Avenue, Dallas, Texas
Many months ago Pearl Street was considered as a street to use
in honoring the César Chávez name. At
the time all parties were looking at other streets. As of 11-10-08 that changed when the Dallas City Council
voted against the first two proposals that had been developed for the other
streets. After that vote the Dallas
for his staff to begin another search for a way to honor César Chávez.
A task force is being formed. That brings us back to Pearl. The following
facts make a good case for Pearl to be the anchor for a memorial honoring César
César Chávez Plaza in
Farmer's Market was dedicated in May of
1995 from a one block section of
Pearl Expy that was closed off and turned into a plaza. On the south side of the east
door of Building #2 (the west side of the plaza) is a plaque with the image of
César Chávez. It
tells the story of César Chávez and dedicates the plaza as César Chávez Plaza.
Pearl Expy goes out both directions from César Chávez Plaza, two blocks to the south, and two miles to the north, first as Pearl Expy, and
then after crossing Pacific Avenue, as Pearl Street.
Sadly an awareness of the César Chávez name
being anywhere in Farmers Market is no more common in Dallas than was an
awareness of the Ross Avenue name source a year ago. Almost nobody knows about it.
A search of
the Dallas Farmers Market web site 11-16-08 resulted in no
mention found anywhere on the site of the name
César Chávez, or of César Chávez Plaza in the Farmers Market!
a lack of visibility for the César Chávez name would change immediately if the name Pearl was replaced with the name
César Chávez all along
Pearl Street and Pearl Expy. The name César Chávez would no longer be invisible in
Dallas! Pearl could become a simple and powerful
memorial to this great American.
Since Moody is like Pearl, a street name whose source is unknown
(even to the Archivist for the City of Dallas), the name
Moody could also be renamed after César Chávez. This would provide a
connection with the St. Ann's School building constructed in 1927 on the south side of Moody.
It was the
first school to serve the children of Little Mexico in a time of segregated
education in Dallas.
These streets renamed in
honor of César Chávez would provide a path from the center of
next to the historic St. Ann's School building, south past the location
where more Hispanics
gather for worship each weekend (the Guadalupe Cathedral) than any other
location in Texas, then on to the Farmer's
Market. This memorial to César Chávez would run within two blocks of the
Latino Cultural Center. It would
not only make the César Chávez name visible from one end of Downtown
Dallas to the other, it would also place it on the exits going both ways off Woodall Rogers Freeway.
It could also lead to the renaming of the current Pearl Station on the DART Rail Line in
honor of César Chávez.
(The César Chávez DART Rail Station would be the first mass transit rail station
in the US with the César Chávez name according to an Internet search.) The map below outlines this path along Moody and Pearl in red.
The hurdle we face is that Dallas has a history of pushing
the few minority
names we have on streets and public structures into relatively invisible and hidden corners of our city.
There are only rare
exceptions to this pattern. To follow recent suggestions made to limit the César
to only the Farmer's Market area continues the historic Dallas tradition to
minimize minority names. (If there is no such tradition, where are minority
names on Dallas streets and buildings?)
The City of Dallas Archivist said he has searched for 7 years
for the source of the Pearl Street name with no success. This makes Pearl a good
candidate for the name César Chávez. There are also only 369 addresses on Pearl, half the
number that are on Ross Avenue.
The large majority of them are not businesses, but private residences. Thus we
have a street with only a small fraction of the number of business addresses as
were present on both Ross and Industrial.
Changing both Pearl & Moody will also positively raise the visibility of the Victory
Park area surrounding American Airlines Center, especially with media and other support to
acknowledge the history and work of the people of Little Mexico.
People with roots in Little Mexico have made many great achievements. Many could be
seen returning to live in the area again due to
the positively developing residential area there. Many may already be there.
To study Pearl Street in this area of Dallas go to
www.maps.google.com and search for "N
Pearl St, Dallas, Dallas, Texas 75201" in Google Maps. The above map is
from that page. For more
information you may study the Dallas County Appraisal District records on Pearl Street
Please help to identify potential problems with the idea of renaming
Pearl and Moody in honor of César Chávez. Sadly 50 or more businesses will still have
expenses related to an address change, a small fraction of the businesses that
such expenses in the Ross Avenue change proposal. Hopefully such investments can
be well managed to
result in large, ultimately very profitable, benefits through increased visibility for those
What are other problems that may be faced with this proposal?
The 11-29-08 weekend edition of Aldia, the Spanish version of
the Dallas Morning News, had a front page article titled "Una Perla para Chávez."
Here is a
link to a copy of that two page Spanish article. Here is a second link to
English translation of "A Pearl for Chávez."
The following is a lesson plan from
uses the recent sad history in Dallas of the attempts up to 10-20-08 to honor
César Chávez. That recent history is used to promote a reflection for
students on tolerance. May our children ultimately see a positive example from this time in Dallas
History. The process is not over. Many good people continue diligently
October 20, 2008 – Despite a 2-to-1 vote in favor of the
measure, Dallas city leaders may reject a bid to name a major
street after labor and civil rights leader César Chávez.
by Tim Lockette
Dallas officials clash over a street's name
When the city of Dallas launched an effort to revitalize its
struggling Industrial Boulevard, civic leaders spent $20,000 on
a survey asking local residents to choose possible names for the
street. But when residents voted 2-to-1 in favor of the name
"César Chávez Avenue," the city's mayor declared that the survey
wasn't a binding vote.
Questions for Classroom Discussion
- Other cities have named streets and schools after
Chavez. What did he do to deserve this honor? (Answers may
include: Led a movement to stop inhuman working
conditions in American agriculture, used nonviolent means to
make social change, became an inspiration to other leaders
in the Latino civil rights movement.)
- What are some of the reasons civic leaders have offered
for opposing the move to change Industrial Boulevard to
César Chávez Avenue? (Answers may include: Doesn't fit
the city's marketing plan, "not relevant" to Dallas history.)
- What does the naming of streets say about a community?
(Answers will vary but may include: Reflects the history
of an area, reflects the heroes of the people who live
there, reflects the values of the residents.)
- For which historical figures are the streets in your
town named? (Answers will vary but may include: Martin
Luther King, Jr., various presidents, war heroes, founders
or early industrialists in the town. Students may need
to do research on street names and may come up with some
surprises, including streets named for Ku Klux Klan members,
slaveowners or other objectionable figures.)
- Do the names of streets and public facilities in your
town reflect the lives and values of the people who live in
your town? (Answers will vary.)
Viva La Causa
Order our newest teaching kit for grades 7-12, which focuses on
the farmworker strike and grape boycott led by César Chávez and
Latino Civil Rights Timeline
Fill in the gaps in your students' historical knowledge with the
Teaching Tolerance Project's short timeline of the history of
Latino civil rights movements in America.
César Chávez Across America
A list of road, schools, libraries and other landmarks named for
Along Martin Luther King
View the current events archive
A journalist looks at the state of black America by exploring
the 650 streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr.
this line was archived on 11-12-08 as the efforts for a new street to use in
honoring César Chávez were started. Sadly, all the efforts below only led to
where we are now as we work on yet another location to use in honoring César
The web site below was an effort to renew the faded public memory of
William W. and Andrew
with the first historical marker in their honor,
and permanently rename the section of Ross Avenue southwest of Greenville Avenue in honor of
The southwest end of the current Ross
Avenue is marked in the photo above. It runs
within 6 blocks of the old
St. Ann's school
which was in the center of Little Mexico. The southwest end of Ross was
originally an industrial area where many from Little Mexico worked. The first block of
Ross southwest of the Akard intersection, to about the middle of the block
occupied by Fountain Place Plaza, the large blue building north of the "Ross
Avenue" sign above, was actually the southern boundary of Little Mexico
according to this
map from about 1940 that is linked here. The northern boundary of
Little Mexico in 1940 was
Reverchon Park. In the
photo above it is the northern edge of the trees seen north of American Airlines
Avenue in Dallas was the gathering point for
both the largest, and the most peaceful, public march in the history of Texas!
It happened on April 9, 2006 and had to start 10 minutes early due to the press
of the unexpected crowds estimated at a half-million people!
At 7:00 PM on that same day an opinion piece by
Michael Phillips was
posted in the Dallas Morning News , "Ghosts of racism." It was an
exceptionally accurate and painful commentary on the history of Dallas
drawing from his experiences that led to his book titled
White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001.
It explains some of the history that led to a half million people
marching downtown this afternoon. Mr. Phillips was not involved in what
was happening downtown Dallas the afternoon his opinion piece was published.
Very few of the half million people who walked that
day realized they were walking past the southern border of the area that in the history of Dallas was
once called Little Mexico. We must know our history.
map from about 1940, linked here, shows the area covered by current Fountain Place Plaza, the large
blue 40+ story building on the left
side of Ross Avenue in the photo below. Fountain Place Plaza is now located on some of the land that used to be
part of Little Mexico.
The first photo above was taken at about 1:00 PM on 4-9-06 The march had started
about 10 minutes earlier than the 1:00 PM planned start time due to the
unexpected crowds that were gathering around the Cathedral for many blocks.
Organizers were worried. They started the march earlier than scheduled so as to
relieve the crowd pressure that was mounting. It is estimated that it took about
10-15 minutes for the march to reach this point on Ross, walking past the
southern border of the former "Little Mexico" area of Dallas. The
second photo above is from the eastern end of Ross Avenue looking past the Cathedral
of Our Lady of Guadalupe where the march started.
The above photos are from the LULAC photo album where there are many other photos
from this wonderfully peaceful day.
Another album online is at the
Dallas Morning News web site.
This photo was taken from the corner of Ross and Griffin, from a location about under the 'u' in the
word "Avenue" that was inserted into the
photo at the very top of this web page.
It was an exceptionally peaceful march with virtually no negative incidents
Ross Avenue was filled with people for many hours as a half a
million people marched.
is very appropriate that Ross Ave be renamed in honor of a national leader in
using such non-violent methods to support basic human rights.
That leader, César Chávez, also happens to be Hispanic, as were the large majority of
the marchers that
peaceful day in April of 2006.
Reasons to Rename Ross Avenue as César Chávez Avenue
People ask what
César Chávez did in
Texas. The best answer is found when you go to the Texas Handbook web site (www.tshaonline.org)
managed by the Texas State Historical Commission. When you search this Texas
State Historical Commission web site for the name César Chávez you will find his name and/or
his work in Texas mentioned 9 times in the Texas Handbook. Search for Harry Hines, after whom a major
north/south Dallas street is named that goes by Parkland Hospital, and you only
get three hits. It is certain, with 9 mentions, that the name César Chávez is more
often present on the Texas State Historical Commission web site than the large
majority of other names on downtown Dallas streets. Sam Houston is an obvious
César Chávez was last in Dallas in 1991, 2 years before his death,
visiting supporters. His connections to Dallas were the subject of a
Morning News article titled
"Supporters of naming Dallas street after César Chávez cite his ties to city."
Jim Schutze has a wonderful opinion
piece on the César Chávez street naming chaos at
www.dallasobserver.com/2008-07-31/news/what-s-in-a-nombre/. His opinion was
only slightly wrong: the move of the name change process from Industrial to
Ross, while it may have started as an "accommodation," is ultimately resulting
in a much better solution for many reasons. Here are some of those reasons, most
of which have been shared with the mayor and city council:
This plan will expand the public memory of the Ross brothers, virtually unknown
to the current generations before May of
2008. A historical marker documenting the names and life events of the Ross
Brothers will be placed on the most-walked Ross Avenue intersection
at North Market, the main entry to the
West End. It will document the history of the Ross brothers in Dallas, and
possibly also the Carondolet name which was originally on these southwestern
blocks of what is now Ross Avenue for over 70 years. (The Ross Avenue name
was expanded and the Carondolet name, going back to 1856, was deleted from
maps sometime between 1930 and 1938.) A second historical marker may
also be considered for the section of Ross between Greenville and Live Oak
which is not recommended for change since it is on the largest pieces of
land owned by the Ross brothers. It is very appropriate that this renaming
process will lead to at least one historical marker that will publically record the history
of the Ross Brothers and bring their almost forgotten lives back into public
awareness. They had a powerful effect on the early history of Dallas. The
existence of Ross Avenue was recorded in City of Dallas minutes in December
of 1868, less than 24 months after the arrival of the first brother in
Dallas! Each brother lived for over 30 years in Dallas after the Ross
Avenue street name had been recorded.
Minority leaders were virtually
ignored for Dallas street names prior to 1960. That must be corrected! Who
better should be the first Hispanic to have their name on a downtown Dallas
street than César Chávez? A video about his life will be available after
10-23-08 from the
www.tolerance.org web site and can be
ordered free by teachers and librarians at
http://www.tolerance.org/teach/resources/viva_lacausa.jsp. It is called
"Viva La Causa" and is described as "the story of César
Chávez and a great
movement for social justice." We are making progress!
In the 2007-2008 school year 70% of Kindergarten
students in Dallas ISD were Hispanic. They are the future Dallas must build
for. A dropout prevention
project now active in Dallas ISD has demonstrated that a focus on
history, and a student's personal history, can lower our dropout rates over 25%! This renaming of a major Dallas street
for a national Hispanic hero helps reinforce that process. A student's need
for a hero they can identify with is well documented. It is critical
in their process of visualizing their own potential place in history. Lack
of the ability to visualize future goals leads to the
56% dropout/attrition rate that Dallas ISD students
Ross Avenue runs along
southern edge of what was once called Little Mexico. It is only 6 blocks
from the old St. Ann's school which was in the heart of Little Mexico, and
is one of the few buildings preserved from that history. (See photo at
www.studentmotivation.org/littlemexico/index.htm which also shows
southwest tip of Ross.)
Today the northeast end of Ross
is 65% Hispanic, as are many locations in Dallas since
43% of the total
Dallas population is Hispanic, 29% is Non-Hispanic White, and 23% is
Hundreds of thousands of
current Dallas residents, from all ethnic groups, grew up working in conditions
that César Chávez successfully worked to change in Texas and across the
Ross Ave is the largest
Hispanic gathering place in the US on Sunday mornings according to the web
Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Over 17,000 Hispanic families
are registered in this, the largest Cathedral parish in the US. They attend the Cathedral of Guadalupe each weekend on
Ross, filling the Cathedral repeatedly during many repeated liturgical
services, all day Sunday, and
Saturday evening, that are necessary to accommodate the crowds. No church in
Dallas has more people attend services every weekend. The Virgin of Guadalupe played a significant role in
the daily life of
Following principles of peaceful demonstration César Chávez taught
throughout his life, the April 9, 2006 Mega March down Ross Avenue was the gathering
the largest Civil Right march in Texas history! From 1:00 PM, and
for hours thereafter on that sunny day in 2006, Ross Avenue was filled with people
walking most of it's length downtown. They peacefully filled the entire street
from sidewalk to sidewalk. (See photos taken that day, and others linked
from www.studentmotivation.org/littlemexico/index.htm.) It is estimated
as many as
500,000 people were present in the march. Most were Hispanic. It was
exceptionally impressive day! It is certain
César Chávez would have loved the non-violent nature of this huge march.
Some are even considering his cause for sainthood due to the peaceful example he gave.
A video about his life will be available after 10-23-08 from the
www.tolerance.org web site and can be
ordered free by teachers and librarians at
http://www.tolerance.org/teach/resources/viva_lacausa.jsp. It is called
"Viva La Causa" and is described as "the story of César
Chávez and a great
movement for social justice."
Many of the businesses on Ross
are either Hispanic (62%), or want to reach out to the Hispanic community
for business reasons, and will support this change.
Both school and church were the
center for life for César Chávez. This avenue being considered for his name has both the Cathedral and the DISD
Central Offices on it. This is especially appropriate.
A downtown street name will now
reflect the presence of generations of Hispanic families who have done the
work to literally build, and continue to build, much of our city and
culture. It is only appropriate, since they are now the majority in the
population of Dallas, that our city infrastructure names should
reflect that reality.
To always push minority
names outside of downtown, or to less significant streets, as many have suggested, is a simple continuation
of the "accommodation" scandals Jim Schutze painfully documented in the 1986
book, The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City.
(Copies of his book are in the Dallas Library.)
Anyone who is interested in being
involved in these efforts to rename Ross Avenue may want to go to
for more current information.
The one thing this street renaming
process has exposed again is the absolute need to better educate Texans about
their own history. The history of this wonderful state and it's people is the
most powerful tool we have for positive changes into the future. Our true
history, not necessarily the recorded one, is powerful. When history is not
recorded it is almost always due to political reasons, prejudice against
minorities and the poor, and mistreatment thereof. We endanger our children and
grandchildren to repeat that painful past if we ignore or hide it. We will not
change until we can admit the factual, sometimes painful, truths of our past.
The lack of change caused by a falsely positive image of our past will allow our
grandchildren's generation to still suffer in ways too similar to those our grandparents
The process of exploration as we
consider changing a street name helps us admit our past and build to a new and
more positive future. We must leave behind the anger, hate, and ignorance of
history, that has been reflected
on blogs all over the Internet discussing the
effort to put the name of César Chávez on a street in Dallas. Dallas Morning
News staff have even shut down at least one blog, refusing to take more
comments, due to the anger and less than civil dialog reflected on that blog.
You can also google blogs
for “César Chávez Dallas” to find other sad examples.)
César Chávez would never have
wanted us to respond with the same verbal violence that far too many bloggers
have used to angrily attack the idea of placing a Hispanic name on a Dallas
street. Fortunately, verbally violent counter-attacks by those supporting the
César Chávez name
change have been rare. We are keeping with the spirit of César Chávez.
We must continue the peaceful
process we have begun to honor César Chávez by only using the same peaceful
methods he himself used. We have all benefited from his peaceful work.
Let's engage in a process that will say much about Dallas and how
our beliefs are reflected in the way we change street names in our city to
reflect our values. It will say more about us than it will ever say about
His legacy is already firmly established in the History of
the USA. The history of Dallas is being built, day by day.
Be strong. Be firm. Above all, be peaceful.
www.studentmotivation.org - a
Perhaps Ross Avenue is
due for change - Steve
11:12 AM CDT on Sunday,
August 10, 2008
to find that life can
still bring some
surprises – especially
when it's inside your
On this whole Ross
Avenue/César Chávez name
change, my inclination
was to oppose it.
all, I'm the guy who
argued for respecting
history and leaving
see how influential I
am. Industrial is now on
its way to becoming
name has to change,
that's a good call. The
whole point of this
exercise was to build a
give credit to Latino
understanding that and
not waging a battle over
Industrial, despite that
So now we
turn our attention to
Ross Avenue, where those
leaders do appear ready
for a fight.
reaction was just like
with Industrial: You
don't mess with history.
Ross Avenue is named for
someone. That makes the
name even more sacred.
Ross Avenue is named for
... uh, wait a minute.
Let's see ... Ross?
here's where I hit my
first mental snag. If
you haven't got a clue
whom a street is named
for, is that really a
name worth fighting to
turns out that Ross
Avenue is named for
brothers William and
Andrew Ross. And as far
as I can tell, their
major accomplishment was
owning the land where
the new avenue was
platted. That's it. They
Avenue's name pays
homage to wealth. Like
we don't already have
plenty of that in
does César Chávez have
to do with Dallas?
Important figure, sure,
but hardly someone you
associate with Dallas,
Hang on a
minute, my little mind
said to me. What did the
Rev. Martin Luther King
Jr. have to do with
Dallas? Or Malcolm X,
for heaven's sake?
Adams or Van Buren, for
we have no problem using
names with no relation
to Dallas – Seaside
Drive, Oceanview and
Mountain Valley, to name
a far-fetched few.
street names should have
a permanence about them.
We don't go changing
street names just to
suit changing times.
we do. Just ask
Francisco Luis Hector
Baron de Carondelet.
Dallas once had a short
street named Carondelet
for the Spanish colonial
leader. But when it was
extended, it was renamed
– guess what – Ross
I have already mentioned
MLK and Malcolm X – a
couple of streets that
got new names to better
reflect our full
once had a Germania
Street. But during World
War I, that named seemed
just a little too, uh,
Germanic. It was changed
to Liberty Street.
in the 1920s, when
Lindbergh was the
Dallas named a street
for him. Then in the
1930s, when Lindbergh
was just a little too
fond of Hitler, Dallas
renamed his street for a
local banker, William
maybe we could rename a
street for Chávez. But
wouldn't Singleton or
Live Oak be better?
would be better, I had
to admit to myself, if
the goal is to find a
that doesn't seem like a
good argument: We'll
honor Chávez, just not
thinking it through, I
surprise myself by
saying, sure, let's
rename Ross Avenue.
Let's honor Chávez. And
in doing so, let's honor
the changing makeup of
doesn't mean being stuck
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Changing Ross Avenue to César Chávez makes logical sense
Old postcard of Ross Avenue when it had big grand houses.
The tug-of-war currently happening in Dallas over whether or not
should be renamed César Chávez is not going to end nicely.
On the one hand, if city officials renege on their olive branch
gesture to allow the city’s Latino community to honor a man
recognized for fighting for the rights of Latino farm workers,
bad feelings will undoubtedly ensue.
On the other hand, if city officials ignore the critics opposed
to relegating the Ross family name only to the dusty annals of
city history, more bad feelings will ensue. It clearly is a
no-win situation for the Dallas City Council.
Or is it?
An editorial in today’s The Dallas Morning
News would like to have us think
so. According to the paper’s editorial board, the city’s Latino
community would do the whole city a favor if we would just
forget about changing Ross Ave. to César Chávez Blvd. Their
solution is to pick another street and choose someone who has
more direct ties to Dallas’ Latinos.
There’s nothing wrong with that suggestion and, in fact, it’s
long overdue. There should be recognition for any of our
hard-working Latino and Latina politicians, business
entrepreneurs or non-profit trailblazers with a street named in
their honor, but there should also be a street named for César
For The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board to
arbitrarily declare that
César Chávez has no real meaning for Dallas Latinos shows a
gross insensitivity to the community. Perhaps if they had a
Latino/a editorial writer within their ranks who could have
clued them in as to why Chavez is significant to all Latinos,
then maybe they would have thought twice before publishing their
For starters, while it’s true that César Chávez fought for the
rights of farm workers, his legacy is that his memory has
evolved into a symbol for standing up for the civil rights of
all Latinos. His example of non-violence to get his message
across is one that is replicated today by new generations of
To many of us, he symbolizes the “every-Latino” who rose from
humble beginnings, who never forgot his roots and always
defended and spoke up for those who had no voice.
César Chávez’ impact on today’s Latinos is something we’re
constantly reminded of, especially whenever we hear a politician
borrow Chavez’ most famous words: “Si se puede.”
Chavez, by virtue of his deeds, was and is able to bridge the
wide variety of Latino cultures and unite us under one proud
banner — no small feat.
And why Ross Ave.? There has been so much condemnation voiced
over this selection that no one has examined the reason why this
street was chosen.
Speaking for myself, the most important reason is because Ross
Ave. is home to one of the most important landmarks for Dallas
Latinos — the
Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The Cathedral is home to the largest Latino parish congregation
in the nation. It holds a significant place in the history of
the Dallas Latino community, not to mention that the building is
not going anywhere.
It would be far easier to rename Ross Ave. César Chávez Blvd and
choose another street to rename for Ross Ave. In reviewing a
1901 Dallas city street directory at the
Dallas County Texas Archives website, I discovered it wasn’t
the first time Ross Ave. had been renamed.
In fact, in reviewing a Google map of downtown Dallas, the first
thing that became apparent was that out of all the streets that
wind throughout the heart of the city, there’s no street with a
recognizable name that means something to the Latino community.
While there’s Malcolm X, Ervay, Griffin and Ackard to name a
few, there’s no street, in a city that is majority Latino, that
reflects our presence.
It’s time to change that and understand that there are plenty of
streets to go around.
8-14-08: The good news is that yesterday a very good history of the Ross
brothers was posted on the Dallasblog at
The sad news is that this posting, and a related new web site at
http://www.saveross.com/ appear to be
directed at stopping this effort to permanently remember the Ross brothers and
also add evidence of the Hispanic influence in Dallas to the Dallas
Again some of the people in Dallas want to accommodate minorities.
Professor Darwin Payne has provided many very positive and needed reports on the
history of the Ross brothers in Dallas. Sadly it is a history that probably
fewer than 100 people in Dallas were aware of 6 months ago. The best thing about
the process we are now engaged in regarding the renaming of Ross Avenue is that
more people are becoming aware of the impressive history of the Ross brothers.
is the type history that could probably be written about many of the people
whose names are on the streets of Dallas, and also many of the people who did
the actual labor building those streets and the city of Dallas, but whose names
are unknown. Our culture is blessed with many honorable ancestors we too easily
goal of the César Chávez Avenue Task Force is to document, on at least one
permanent historical marker along Ross Avenue, details from the lives of William
and Andrew Ross. The goal is that every day more people will read and learn
about the lives of the Ross brothers than even knew of that history the half
century before 2008.
the process of remembering history we also want to remember the history that was
never written about the thousands of minority families who lived along Ross
Avenue working in the factories and homes of Dallas. Thus that minority
community wants to place the name of one of their own greatest modern Hispanic
leaders, César Chávez, as the street name. The goal is to expand our cities
acknowledgment of the many ethnic groups who helped build Dallas.
is no accident that the ethnic groups who have the history that is least
acknowledged in the Dallas infrastructure and street names are also the ethnic
groups who have the highest dropout rates in Dallas ISD. This is a common
characteristic among high school dropouts: they have little or no connection to
their own personal histories. That is what helps also disconnect them from
a focus onto their own futures.
dropout prevention project now in its fourth year in one Dallas ISD school is
working to reconnect students with their histories. It is helping students
document their heritage, their past, and also their goals for the future.
It is a dropout prevention project that is
documented as lowering 9th to 10th grade dropout rates by over 25%. As
the School Archive Project
matures the dropout rate is anticipated to be cut in half! Such is the power of
However, unless the history for all the children in Dallas ISD, especially the
majority, is better reflected in the major street names in our city, we have a
tragic disconnection. The dropout rate will never go as low as is possible.
have work to do.
Backers of renaming Ross
Avenue for César Chávez
face long road
12:00 AM CDT on
Wednesday, August 6,
A plan to
rename one of Dallas'
oldest thoroughfares for
civil rights leader
César Chávez took a
significant step forward
Tuesday, but it has a
long and likely
difficult path toward
Boulevard for Mr. Chávez,
a Dallas City Council
unanimously Tuesday to
recommend that Ross
Avenue bear his name.
proposal – which also
Industrial as Riverfront
Boulevard – succeeded
mainly in shifting the
controversy a few blocks
east and several weeks
or even months down the
member Steve Salazar, a
key proponent of
changing Ross to César
acknowledged as much
moments before Tuesday's
vote was taken by the
Trinity River Corridor
only one part of the
process, and it's going
to be a long process,"
proposal next must go
before the Dallas Plan
Commission. A date for
that meeting will likely
be scheduled after a
10-day review by several
city departments and
plan commission stage,
the public will have the
first of at least two
chances to be heard on
the calls and e-mails
that came into City Hall
on Tuesday are any
indication, there should
be quite a crowd.
commission will have a
chance to approve or
deny the name change
matter what the
commission decides, the
City Council will have
the final vote.
question is whether
approval of the name
change would require a
simple majority of the
council or a
three-quarters vote – 12
council members – would
be required under two
conditions: If the plan
commission denies the
recommendation or if 20
percent of property
owners along Ross file a
written opposition to
the name change.
Ruiz, chairman of the
César Chávez Task Force,
a group of elected
officials and Hispanic
leaders pushing for the
name change, said
Tuesday that he expects
his group will need to
win a three-quarters
vote of the council.
it's going to be very
difficult. We have to
work hard. We're going
to sweat a lot in the
next few weeks," he
only the council's three
Hispanic members, Mr.
Salazar, Mayor Pro Tem
Elba Garcia and council
member Pauline Medrano,
are fully behind
renaming Ross. All three
are on the city's
Trinity committee and
voted in favor of the
Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine
Caraway, who initially
opposed renaming the
street, also sits on the
committee and voted in
favor of the
Afterward, he said that
he is likely to vote in
favor of the name change
when the issue reaches
the full council.
rest of the Trinity
council members Carolyn
Davis, Linda Koop and
Dave Neumann, hedged
when asked what they
will do when the issue
comes before them again.
supportive of letting
the process go forward,"
Ms. Koop said.
opposition at this point
are council members
Jerry Allen, Ron
Natinsky and Mitchell
said he will listen to
all sides but is
reluctant to change a
street name that is
entrenched in Dallas
like anything, it's hard
to change that, and
those are my memories,
too," he said.
more so than Industrial
Boulevard, Ross Avenue
seems to represent
something deep about
through the heart of
downtown, it passes
shining skyscrapers and
rolls northeast into the
neighborhoods of East
Dallas where many
Mexican immigrants have
made a home.
changes in the street
from downtown to
reflect something about
the changing face and
politics of Dallas.
one reason Ross is the
right choice to be
renamed for Mr. Chávez,
Dr. Garcia said.
are asking for today is
respect. What the Latino
community wants today is
respect. How do you tell
the community that César
Chávez isn't good enough
when this city has a 60
population?" she asked.
that question is sure to
be complicated for
opponents of renaming
member Angela Hunt,
whose district includes
much of Ross downtown,
said she has already
received calls from
business owners who
oppose changing the
street's name. No
business owners have
called her in support,
from The Dallas
Morning News and
WFAA-TV (Channel 8) to
several major businesses
on Ross Avenue went
have anything to offer
you on that," said Jill
for the Dallas Museum of
Art, before abruptly
spokeswoman for Crow
Holdings, which owns the
Trammell Crow Center at
Ross and Field Street,
had no comment.
spokeswoman for the
company that manages
Fountain Place at Ross
and Pearl Street didn't
return a call.
said the church had yet
to finalize a position,
a spokeswoman said. The
Cathedral Shrine of the
Virgin of Guadalupe sits
on Ross and has been
cited by supporters of
the name change as a
major gathering place
for Dallas Hispanics.
Crawford, president and
chief executive of
Downtown Dallas, said
his group hasn't had a
chance to fully review
Leppert and many on the
council took the same
on something like this
you want to listen to
all the groups in the
community," Mr. Leppert
agreed but added that
she has some concerns
about changing the name
of a street so tied to
William and Andrew Ross
were prominent Dallas
residents at the time of
the Civil War, and Ross
Avenue cuts through land
that once belonged to
others on the council,
Ms. Hunt said the
process needs to play
out fairly before a
final decision is made.
just now at the point
where I can start
talking to my
constituents. We are
very early in the
process," she said.
Watson of WFAA-TV
(Channel 8) contributed
to this report.
On about June 15, 2008 it was confirmed that Dallas civic powers will ignore a
$20,000 survey they paid for
that resulted in 52% of respondents wanted
César Chávez as the new name for Industrial Boulevard. Second place, with less
than 20% of the vote, was the apparent winner. The battle to name César
Chávez Avenue was shifted to
Ross Avenue, a street even closer to the heart of the area known as Little
and much more central to Hispanic History in Dallas!
The photo below shows
Industrial Blvd in relation to the area formerly known as Little Mexico.
Little Mexico, like many other laborer communities in the history
of Dallas, has been virtually erased from the Dallas landscape. Industrial blvd
was the major transportation artery through the industrial area of the city
where thousands of workers from Little Mexico, and similar communities, worked or
traveled every day. It was very appropriate to consider honoring such workers by renaming
Industrial Blvd in the honor of a national leader in workers' rights. For the
same reasons it is now even more appropriate to rename Ross Avenue to honor
César Chávez. Ross Avenue is significantly closer to the area once known
as Little Mexico.
It is easier to ignore workers' basic human rights
when we keep the names of such leaders hidden within their own communities, or
somehow even try to turn a basic worker rights issue into a racial issue. Who
benefits from such a distraction?
The School Archive Project - Preventing Dropouts
Bill Betzen: email@example.com