Fairfax Rushes to Get Sign Right: Missing `S' Mars Douglass Marker

Article excerpt

Frederick Douglass, the eloquent ex-slave who became the leading advocate of black civil rights and education in the 19th century, has a street named in his honor in Fairfax County. Sort of.

Trouble is, his name is spelled wrong on the street sign, and has been for decades, maybe more than 80 years.

Now, Fairfax officials are rushing to correct the blunder in hopes of having a new sign along the short Douglas Avenue in time for Douglass' birthday in February, which is also Black History Month.

"Douglas Avenue may be small, but its significance is not," said Supervisor Gerald Connolly, a Providence District Democrat. "The street was named for Frederick Douglass - former slave, noted author and the leading spokesman of American blacks in the 1800s - whose name is spelled with a double "s," not one, as the sign now indicates."

Mr. Connolly on Monday persuaded the other supervisors to have the county correct the error on all its maps and documents. Officials will rededicate the street to Douglass' memory next month.

The spelling mistake came to light early last year, when Rick Turman, chairman of the Historical Commission of the City of Falls Church, was researching microfiche documents on civil rights in the city. Douglas Avenue stretches three blocks, more than half of which is in Falls Church.

Looking at documents dating to 1912, when Virginia passed a law mandating the residential segregation of blacks and whites, Mr. …