AUSTIN, Texas – Residents and tourists in Austin told PJM that they oppose the idea of renaming the state capital due to Stephen F. Austin’s support for slavery.
Austin, known as the “Father of Texas,” owned “a few slaves” in his lifetime and opposed efforts in Mexico to end slavery, according to author and historian Gregg Cantrell. In 1824, Austin defended the economic benefits of slavery, specifically for cotton. The city of Austin’s Equity Office published a report recommending street names to change since they honor figures who had ties to slavery, in addition to renaming the city itself.
The city’s report noted that Austin is “not directly tied to the Confederacy and/or the Civil War” but argued that the existing name is “within the spirit of the resolution representing slavery, segregation, and/or racism.”
Austin residents and tourists disagreed with changing the name.
“F**king no, stay Austin, I think the name is good. Just keep it this way; this is part of history, let’s keep it that way. You do not want to erase history right now. What’s the point?” said Leon, who was visiting Austin from Oklahoma.
“This is the stupidest bullsh*t I’ve ever heard. Why do they want to erase history? Can they change that by changing the name? No. Leave it alone, that’s my take. Some might think I’m crazy but, hey, I’m just like, don’t change it – don’t fix it, there’s nothing wrong, OK?” he added.
Eliana, an Austin resident, also said she disagrees with the idea of changing the name of the city over Austin’s connection to slavery.
“I understand the whole slave thing but Austin’s a classic – I don’t think they should rename Austin, honestly. I understand the history behind it, but you have to accept the history sometimes and not make it a negative thing but change it into a positive thing,” Eliana said. “Austin is really diverse now. I don’t think Austin is what it used to be or what it used to represent, either.”
Stephanie, who was visiting Austin from Houston, urged local leaders to “be careful” if they move forward with the renaming process.
“I think a lot of research needs to be done because even if you think back to, if you pick a name, there’s going to always be somebody who has had some type of blemishes in life. So you’ve got to be careful with that – making sure it is appropriate if you’re going to research that, because they might change the name to commemorate someone else and then you find something with that person so then you’re having to continuously change it,” she said.
Fabian, who lives in Austin, said he’s against a name change, adding that there would be a lot of backlash if the city government renamed the city.
“Nope, because it’s been named Austin for more than 50 years ,so why change it? It’s been that long – they should have done it a long time ago,” he said.
Mike from New York, who is considering a move to Austin, shared the same view as Fabian.
“I think it’s too late. I think it’s already established. I think it’s too late. I think it’s terrible he was a slave owner, though, but so were a lot of people and there’s a lot of cities and towns named after people like that. It is what it is at this point, I think,” he said.
Luis from Houston said the current name is appropriate because Stephen Austin was “a symbolical figure back in the historic time in the beginning of Texas.”
“Basically, so in my opinion, I say they should keep it as Austin – that’s how we’ve all known it, as Austin,” he said.
“After all this time, I don’t think it should matter. I mean, back then, there was a lot of different things going on back then, but I think it should just be kept the way it is,” Luis added. “Even though, I don’t know, to me, the founder of Texas should be Sam Houston, but I’ll stay with Austin. I prefer Austin, for sure.”