WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) introduced legislation to remove the name of Francis G. Newlands from Chevy Chase Circle. Newlands, a former U.S. Senator from Nevada, held racist views and worked to keep working class, Black, and Jewish families out of the Chevy Chase community but is currently memorialized on a fountain and plaque in the circle. Chevy Chase Circle is located partially in the District of Columbia and partially in Maryland but is under federal jurisdiction, as it is managed by the National Park Service. This legislation has been introduced in the House by Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
“For decades, racism and redlining in our nation’s housing market have perpetuated a pattern of discrimination in access to home-ownership. Francis Newlands – who developed Chevy Chase – was a white supremacist who worked to actively ensure his developments were inaccessible to Black, Jewish, and working class families. We should not be memorializing him and the deeply harmful policies he stood for – the legacies of which are still impacting marginalized communities to this day. As we work to take meaningful action to root out the racism embedded in many of our institutions, we must also end the glorification of those who focused on promoting those policies,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“Francis Newlands left a complicated legacy – he supported women’s suffrage yet was an unabashed white supremacist. We can study and learn from his life and career, but we do not need a memorial to him and, by extension, the racist views he openly espoused,” said Senator Cardin. “The land development company he founded, which continues to operate, supports the community’s decision to remove Newlands’ name from the memorial fountain in the interest of building ‘a more inclusive community’. Inclusivity and those individuals who embody and promote it are what we should seek to memorialize.”
“Statues dedicated to Confederates and segregationists belong in museums, not on our streets where they can be misconstrued to mean current support of their racist ideologies,” Representative Norton said. “The plaque and fountain dedicated to Newlands tell no story. They are meant only to honor a segregationist who argued that voting rights won for African Americans as a result of the Civil War should be repealed. Newlands belongs in the dustbin of history, not preserved on a traffic circle that symbolizes the unity between the nation’s capital and the state of Maryland.”
“Our government should never have been in the business of lionizing racist ideologues and segregationists, and today we move closer to ending that embarrassing chapter in our nation's history," said Representative Raskin. "Francis Newlands called for the repeal of the 15th Amendment, advocated racist and anti-immigrant policies, and backed efforts to deprive Black Americans, Jews, and members of other minority groups their basic human rights. The continuing display of Newlands’ dubious legacy encases some of the most grotesque institutional racism America has known. Our work to build a far more democratic and inclusive future requires we remove Newlands’ name from this public landmark. I'm grateful to my colleagues Senators Van Hollen and Cardin and Congresswoman Holmes Norton for their partnership on this important step forward."
“On behalf of the Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers, we thank U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin for introducing this bill. As stated in the Village Board’s resolution adopted in September 2020, our “Board of Managers does not want the fountain’s memorial to be seen as honoring systemic racism and discrimination that is incompatible with the values of Chevy Chase Village,” said Elissa A. Leonard, Chair, Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers.
Text of the legislation is here.