Media Confused on Tubman Sign

By John Dorschner

Miamiwebnews.com

NOTE: See end of story for Miami Herald correction.

A week after a Harriet Tubman Highway sign was unveiled on South Dixie, the media continues to bungle and blur what happened.

That includes TV and print. A Herald editorial rightly congratulated those who pushed to get Tubman recognized but didn’t understand how limited the success was. The piece said the unveiling was “the first in a series that will replace the signs that have long tarnished our landscape” with the Dixie name.

The Dixie name has certainly tarnished history, but it’s not being replaced in this county any time soon. Tubman’s name was simply added to the South Dixie name.

Getting rid of the names of South Dixie and West Dixie for the many miles of road in Dade that are state highways will require an act of the Republican-controlled Legislature, which has not shown enthusiasm for rejecting the heritage of Dixie and the old Confederacy.

In fact, the unveiling last Saturday was limited to a single Tubman sign near the Vizcaya Metrorail station in Coconut Grove. A week after that event, the two Tubman signs on West Dixie — near NE 119th and NE 163rd — remained wrapped in black plastic. The Florida Department of Transportation has yet uncover them.

What’s more, the sections of Dixie in far north and far south Dade that are county roads are now officially Harriet Tubman Highway — because of a county commission vote. But the county, led by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, hasn’t bothered to change the street signs.

Those facts make for a complicated news story in an era where local reporters and editors are overwhelmed with too much work and too little time.

The Herald’s talented editorial writers were simply picking up on the newspaper reporter’s account of “the renaming ceremony.”

Meanwhile, Channel 4 talked about the “redesignation of Dixie Highway.” Miami’s Channel 6 applauded the unveiling on Sept. 18 “in honor of the revered abolitionist” to replace the road “previously known as Dixie Highway.” Channel 6 was so confused it thought that it was Coral Gables unveiling the sign.

Even some of the speakers at the event were confused. State Rep. Kevin Chambliss praised the “name change” — that will allow drivers to “be driving on Harriet Tubman Highway, not Dixie Highway.”

This battle has been going on for two years. In February 2020, after lengthy pleas that started with a high school student, Isabella Banos, the county commission unanimously voted to get rid of the “toxic” Dixie name and replace it with Tubman’s.

That worked immediately for roads controlled by the county — including a stretch on West Dixie from NE 163rd to the Broward County line.

But, because big sections of South and West Dixie are state roads, the change went to the Legislature, which commissioned a study saying the change would be extremely expensive for governments and businesses, which would need new letterheads and signage and such. Tubman supporters countered that those costs were greatly exaggerated. The end result was a small half-step: The Legislature rejected getting rid of the Dixie name but allowed the adding of Harriet Tubman as a memorial highway, an honorary designation of the type that exists on dozens of streets throughout Dade County.

The memorial highway needed the approval of the 10 municipalities that the state road ran through in Miami-Dade. Nine quickly approved. Coral Gables at first rejected it. After an outcry, the Gables commission approved the move. That was in May. It took another four months of delays for the unveiling of the one sign to happen.

What’s the likelihood of really getting rid of the Dixie name in Miami-Dade? Perhaps a sign could be seen in the comments to the Herald editorial, many of which decried the opposition to Dixie. “This is the left trying to re-write history again!” said one reader. Another decried the attitude of “libtards.” And a third complained about “the Woke self-hating cancel culture.”

Several Black legislators have vowed to keep trying to get rid of the Dixie name in Miami-Dade, but they appear to face an uphill battle.

NOTE: After this post was published, the Miami Herald appended a note to its piece: “This editorial has been corrected to say that the Harriet Tubman name has been added as an honorary designation. Street signs that say Dixie Highway have not been re-moved.”

Miamiwebnews@gmail.com

A Miami journalist for a half-century dedicated to peace, equality and environmental protection. Author of Verdict on Trial, available on Amazon.