Rename Pease’s Point Way

27

To the Editor:


In the summer of 1925, a small town in Tennessee made a name for itself. The town’s name was Dayton. Most people probably do not remember Dayton, but they remember what Dayton was famous for: the Scopes Monkey Trial. For those of you who may not know, the Scopes Monkey Trial was a court case where a teacher was accused of violating the Butler Act, a law that prohibited the teaching of evolution. Anyone who took grade school science knows what happened to the Butler Act, but not many people know the impetus of the trial.
To say the town of Dayton cared about evolution is wrong; the American Civil Liberties Union were the ones who cared about evolution and free speech. All they needed was a town to allow one of their teachers to be used as the defendant in a “test case.” Therefore, they offered to defend anyone who was accused of violating the Baker Act. A Dayton businessman named George Rappleyea heard about this proposition and realized it could bring the town of Dayton great publicity; he consulted with the superintendent of schools and a local lawyer, who agreed with him. The superintendent brought in a young teacher named John Scopes, and asked him to be the defendant. Scopes was not sure if he taught evolution or not, but agreed to be the defendant regardless. A media frenzy soon ensued.
The Scopes Trial is a prime example of how a small town can create sweeping societal changes. I am writing today because I believe the time is now for Martha’s Vineyard. When one thinks of Martha’s Vineyard, one usually thinks of beaches, seafood, celebrities, and affluence. When I think of Martha’s Vineyard, I think of the community and the people who shaped me into who I am today. Anyone who knows me personally knows that the last place I wanted to be while I was a kid was the Island. Do I want to live on Martha’s Vineyard my entire life? The answer to that is no, but living in a large city makes me understand why people choose to live in places like Martha’s Vineyard; it isn’t particularly stressful, it is clean, and surprisingly, it is easier to make friends in a small town than it is in a huge city.
I currently live in Washington, D.C. Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed a section of 16th Street near the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza.” Many residents and policy experts see it as a gesture, devoid of any real meaning or change. While I welcome the renaming, the skeptics are not entirely wrong. Washington, D.C., is a city that should lead by example, it is the nation’s capital, and it has historically been plagued with segregation and systemic racism that is still visible today. Can a place like Martha’s Vineyard make sweeping, impactful change? If so, then how? I do not believe that Martha’s Vineyard is expected to change the world. Since county government is extremely limited, Martha’s Vineyard cannot really do anything that is not in step with the commonwealth of Massachusetts. So there is nothing wrong with Island towns passing resolutions condemning racism, and perhaps even renaming streets.
I could not think of a better street to rename than Pease’s Point Way in Edgartown (keep in mind I know Edgartown way better than any other Island town). I have seen other cities rename streets; sometimes the renaming can cause headaches for the Postal Service and business owners. Renaming Pease’s Point Way would cause fewer headaches, since there are a limited number of businesses on it, and many of the houses are owned by seasonal residents, all while it is a main thoroughfare. I may not have ever lived on Pease’s Point Way, but I utilized it consistently throughout my life. After nearly 20 years of walking, biking, and driving down Pease’s Point Way, I can honestly say that nobody calls it by its name outside of downtown Edgartown. I am unsure if it is even signed outside of downtown, which would make the renaming easier. Did I mention that the police and fire departments are on Pease’s Point Way? Could you imagine a place in America where the police station is located on a street called “Black Lives Matter Boulevard”?
While the town of Dayton may have changed the world because they wanted publicity, I believe that Edgartown (and any Island town) could and would implement positive, meaningful change, despite any publicity that would arise. Andy Warhol predicted that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” With today’s 24-hour news cycles and the ability to get breaking news on your phone, he hit the nail right on the head. But if you were to be famous for 15 minutes, wouldn’t you want to be famous for promoting inclusion, tolerance, acceptance, and love? Most people learn evolution in school without realizing the controversy that arose to have it taught; 50 years from now the same could very well be said for streets that were renamed things like “Diversity Plaza” or “Inclusion Place.” Many times, subtle change is often the most sweeping and long-lasting.
In the 1920s, Edgartown and Dayton were roughly the same size (Edgartown was slightly larger). If a small town could make change almost 100 years ago, it could very well be done today. If Chilmark or Aquinnah changed a street name to speak out against systemic racism, then a town that is smaller today than Dayton was 100 years ago would have a louder voice than most major cities in the country. People may forget about a street changing its name, but unless time and erosion speed up, nobody will forget about Martha’s Vineyard. 

 

Jesse I. Herman
Washington, D.C.

27 COMMENTS

    • If your family house was on Jefferson Davis Way would object to renaming it?
      How about King George’s Way?
      Heinrich Himmler ay?

      • The author of this opinion never mentions whether “Pease’s Point” is offensive or outmoded like a street named “Heinrich Himmler Way” would be. Literally their entire reasoning is there aren’t a lot of businesses on PPW and it would be like, so powerful, if the police and fire station were located on a road named “Black Lives Matter Boulevard”

        I get the impetus behind changing location names that honor war criminals or unsavory individuals, but just doing it because it’s trendy and making an argument for it by solely drawing tenuous links to the Scopes trial is ridiculous. Peak virtue signaling.

  1. You live in Washington DC, cool be quiet and stop trying to change stuff where you don’t live.

  2. Well Mr. or Mrs. Herman, since you know so much about Edgartown (than any other town) why don’t you illuminate us on who the Pease’s are, what they represent to the island. Maybe your lobbying efforts would be better suited in Washington getting them to add a ‘Pease’s Point Way’ instead of arbitrarily trying to change our street names. Thank you for your suggestion,but, no thanks!

  3. Ditto to the above comments. Leave Edgartown and its history alone. Why do people want to destroy and tear down anything or anyplace they see doing well? Edgartown works very well. We have a beautifully run village. Decades of living in Edgartown Village has given me a strong and devoted admiration for the Town Government way of governing. I simply love Edgartown. I walk around and imagine all the lives lived in all of the houses, including mine, and I am amazed at the devotion and time and care it took to build a self governing and working village such as Edgartown. My heart literally breaks over all of these negative laments about my village.

    • Did you consider renaming a portion 16th Street Northwest in DC to Black Lives Matter Plaza (officially Black Lives Matter Plaza Northwest) tearing down DC?
      Do you believe that the Edgartown Town Government is appalled by the treatment of people of Color in this country.
      Would it be wrong for the Edgartown Town Government to rename a street, or two, in recognition of the failure of our ‘Patriotic’ American Citizenry’.

  4. Possible new names: Highdollar Highway. Open Door Club Drive. Amity Avenue. Whaddayafindinapod Way. Peaselivesmatter Path. Mindyerpeasencues Street.
    On seventh thought, maybe just leave the name alone, and give Pease a chance?

  5. Thomas, good show, right on. My favorite is MindyerpeasencuesStreet….or, Peaseporridgehot? I’m beginning to think we have all been stuck at home much too long….

  6. I say we go all in. Edgartown was named after the son of James II, the King of England. What better exemplar of a system of White supremacy is there than the British Monarchy? Britain played a primary role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Surely we can come up with a more enlightened name for the town. Perhaps Blacklivesmatterburg?

    • Well, there’s the guys who ran from the British monarchy and created a new country, where there were already a few people, complete with lofty documents and philosophies that they went on to do the polar opposite of at every single turn, almost like a joke. For hundreds of years.

      I’d say that group was worse because they pretended to be better.

  7. I’m not getting behind this idea because we have bigger fish to fry and focus is needed elsewhere. However, it’s hard to miss that we refer to this place as Martha’s Vineyard when it already had another name. I don’t think anyone is really concerned with erasing culture or history in general. They just don’t want it to happen to them. How noble. lol

      • Sometimes it’s wrong, ajay. And sometimes not. But that wasn’t really my point. I just think it’s funny that people are clutching their pearls over this in the name of preserving history when we live on an island that saw much of its history replaced.

        • And no one seems to mind that systemic racism is so ingrained that 4 weeks after the brutal murder of George Floyd, islanders can think it’s cute to lightheartedly usurp the seriousness of Black Lives Matter and suggest Pease Lives Matter. And worse, someone thinks it’s clever to make a joke about changing the name of the town to Black Lives Matter Berg? The DC mayor wasn’t being facetious when she renamed part of the street near the WH Black Lives Matter Plaza. Imagine the reaction of those who are still moaning about those racist plaques if a white town like Edgartown (yes, I know the Obamas bought in Katama) honored the experience of trying to live safely and securely while Black in America.

          My first comment about noticing the systemic allowed-but-overlooked racism in two comments here didn’t pass muster, but I hope this one does without some white person telling me I’m too…”sensitive”.

          • Ajay, I don’t think it would be wrong to change a street name here. Not sure I see the logic in it being this specific street when OB has so many ties to Black history. Either way, I’d just prefer an artistic tribute. More noticeable. More moving. Hopefully fewer naysayers to spoil the moment.

  8. How about time limits on the names of roads and towns? We could rename all of them every 10 years or so, to reflect the trends of our times.
    I agree with Bluefish– the town was named after a British king who died hundreds of years ago.
    Let’s get with it. Everyone loved Seinfeld. He was such a hit , we should rename the town ,( perhaps the island itself) after him, at least for the next ten years, and then we could perhaps name it after the cutest cat on Facebook. Cat videos are the up and coming thing.
    I like Felix drive, and we should name Owen park Sylvester park. who wants to have a park named after people who are always in debt? No disrespect for whatever Owen this park was named after– I sure they were a good person. it’s just a pun 🙂
    I feel a bit sorry for Jesse. I am sure they were well intentioned. It just seem to not be going over so well here. Thanks for taking the time to express your thoughts Jesse . While I disagree with your idea, I really do respect you for offering your opinion.

  9. Maybe instead of a street name, we could add something new, like a sculpture, to Ocean Park as a tribute to the current movement? A fitting spot for it.

    J’ve been at home for 98 years, ignore me if this is already in place. 😬

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