Another street in Austin could be named after an African American historical figure. State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th) filed a resolution in the House on April 20 that would designate a section of North Avenue in Austin — from Central Avenue to Cicero Avenue — as the “Harriet Tubman Memorial Avenue.”
The resolution is currently in the rules committee, but during a recent phone interview Ford said that he was confident that the measure would pass by the end of May, when the General Assembly’s spring session ends. Street markings could be going up sometime this summer, he added.
Harriet Tubman Memorial Avenue would be the third major street dedication in honor of a significant African American that has come about as a result of a House resolution introduced by Ford.
The lawmaker, an Austin resident, said that his latest resolution is part of a larger goal he has of transforming the built environment on the West Side into a living history lesson.
“We already know that our schools aren’t teaching black history and its important that we show our communities that everywhere we turn there should be meaning,” Ford said. “So when people see Harriet Tubman Memorial Avenue, they will have conversations. She was a very powerful woman and she deserves recognition.”
In 2016, Ford filed a resolution designating a part of Roosevelt Road — from Cicero Avenue to Austin Avenue — as Muhammad Ali Road. That nonbonding resolution passed the House in 2017.
And in 2014, Ford’s resolution designating a part of Cicero Avenue — from Roosevelt Road to West Grand Avenue — as Mandela Road in honor of former South African president and anti-Apartheid activist Nelson Mandela.
Ford said that the resolution honoring Tubman would need to pass both the House and the Senate before the Illinois Department of Transportation gets to work on installing the memorial markers.
The significance of Tubman’s gender, particularly in light of current events related to #MeToo, was not lost on the state representative.
“Another thing we have to make sure of is that young black and white girls recognize there are powerful women who inspire them,” Ford said. ‘The spirit of Harriet Tubman is great. It’s all about freedom and recognizing there are no limits to your life.”