WESTWOOD— At a North Westwood Neighborhood Council meeting on July 1, council members unanimously voted to support a resolution to rename Le Conte Avenue in Westwood.
Le Conte Avenue is named after Joseph LeConte (1823-1901), who was a physician, geologist, and professor at UC Berkeley. He cofounded the Sierra Club with John Muir in 1892, which became one of the first worldwide environmental preservation organizations. The nonprofit still exists today, tackling challenges such as “a warming climate, unprecedented levels of pollution, and powerful special interests undermining basic protections” according to their website.
LeConte also worked for the Confederacy during the Civil War and openly opposed voting rights or education for African Americans in the Reconstruction period. He promoted scientific racism, arguing that white people are biologically superior than black people.
Neighborhood Council member Grayson Peter stated,
“It’s not merely a question of the complexity of one’s legacy, but rather a question of whose legacies we want to promote and glorify,” regarding the street’s renaming.
Due to his racist history, the Council endorsed renaming the street to recognize a UCLA alumni of color. Recommendations included Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in Major League Baseball; James LuValle, Olympian and founder of the Graduate Student Association; and Ralph Bunche, the first African American to win the Noble Peace Prize.
North Westwood Neighborhood Council president Michael Skiles said,
“I don’t think that any person at UCLA should have to walk down a street, look up at a street sign, and think … the person for whom that street is named did not want me here. This person did not think that I am equal to him.”
Although the Neighborhood Council has endorsed the street’s renaming, the name cannot officially be changed until the Los Angeles City Council has approved of the measure.
In Berkeley, Le Conte Elementary School was renamed after Sylvia Mendez, a civil rights activist who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2018.