Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Politics

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.

The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will do anything to appease whites. It’s troubling even if that wasn’t who the road was named for in the first place.

So it’s government’s job to come up with solutions, right?

Today, the Hillsborough County Commission considers two items that landed on its agenda at the same time by pure happenstance — both of them about race, the past and the future.

One is the respectful renaming of that road in a way that doesn’t erase its history. The other is finding a place to honor history itself. (Well, and a way to pay for it, too.)

Commissioner Les Miller, the board’s lone black member, took up the road renaming after someone anonymously sent him photos of a county sign off U.S. 301 in still-somewhat-rural Riverview. Uncle Tom Road, it said in official county road sign green and white.

Miller, by the way, was in the Florida Legislature back when they passed a law about changing offensive street names all over the state. "We went through I don’t even remember the number of roads that had negative racial connotations," he said, including one with the N-word.

Out in Riverview, however, the road was named for a fellow named Thomas B. Murphy, who deeded it to the county in 1960 for a single dollar. And locally, he was known as Uncle Tom.

But the ugly connotations of what Uncle Tom has come to mean — a subservient, Stepin Fetchit black person eager to please white people even at the expense of other blacks — is enough to warrant change. And change doesn’t always go so smoothly around here — witness the fierce fight over the removal of the Confederate monument outside the Hillsborough County courthouse last year.

County employees talked to the one resident of Uncle Tom Road, a man named Bob Purmort. Purmort told me this week he does not think there’s anything racist about the name, given its origin. He also definitely did not want to have to scrawl on his envelopes an even longer name that was suggested, Uncle Tom Murphy Road. (He told me he suggested Uncle Bob Road, but, no.)

But he is not opposing the change.

The compromise the commission considers today seems artful: Call it Tom Road. This keeps Tom Murphy’s name while removing the potentially offensive connotation that morphed from the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the 1852 novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

We’ll see if the road to change is an easy one for the commission.

Speaking of artful, Miller also wants to get the ball rolling on a new African-American art museum here. Funding wise, he’s hoping for a public-private partnership.

I know, I know. They’re still flying that giant Confederate flag on private property out there to make people who drive through Hillsborough think that’s what this place is about.

Two items on today’s commission agenda say something different.

 
Comments
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Updated: 10 hours ago
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administration’s move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.It’s also...
Published: 06/17/18

Pasco Political Notebook

Perenich to ‘Walk the District’Stephen Perenich, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Florida District 12, will be "Walking the District" June 25-29. Perenich will be walking 55 miles in five days, starting in Dade City and heading...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administration’s aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tol...
Published: 06/14/18