TROY, AL (WSFA) - Some Troy University students are petitioning to rename South George Wallace Drive. It's currently named after former Alabama governor, George Wallace, who was known for supporting segregation.
Montae Barto, a sophomore political science major at Troy University, started the petition nearly a month ago after learning about George Wallace in one of his classes.
"I was in my African American politics class and I was listening to my professor talk about who he was and what he stood for and the things he did after and before he was governor, and from there I felt almost obligated to try to make a difference and try to make a change to half of this road," Barto said.
South George Wallace Drive is the road that leads into the university.
"We're supposed to be, you know, the international school of Alabama so for this main road to be named after someone who supported segregation is kind of crazy to me," Barto said. "There's international students that drive down this road and that bothers me. There's African Americans that drive down this road and that bothers me, you know, he can apologize but I feel like does the end justify the means?"
Barto said he would like to see the road renamed after Congressman John Lewis. Lewis is known for his efforts during the Civil Rights Movement.
"I push for South John Lewis Drive because I felt like John Lewis doesn't get enough recognition and he came from this city. He's got this small road called John Lewis Drive but it's a cul-de-sac, it's a small dead-end road," Barto said.
He said that if not John Lewis, he would like to see the veterans be honored.
"My other name that I was going to go to would be Veterans Memorial Drive because Veterans Memorial Stadium is right there," Barto said.
Barto said his next step is to get the community involved.
"I'm going to go to local churches, and I'm going to speak at these local churches. I'm going to try to get pastors involved and I'm going to try to get the NAACP involved and see what we can do to make this change," Barto said.
Ultimately, Barto said, it's going to be up to Troy's locals to make a change, not Troy's students.
"If I can get the church behind me and the locals because this is a local run thing. This is not going to be a Troy student led thing because Troy students can't change the street name, it's the taxpayers that can change the street name," Barto said.
Justice Hammond, a sophomore Broadcast Journalism major at Troy University, supports Barto.
"A more diverse name could open arms to more students and more diversities and I think that's what makes troy unique," Hammond said.
Neither of them spoke poorly of Wallace.
"I respect the man after he apologized and everything that he's done for Troy. From what I hear he has done nothing but positive things, and that's why I feel like he would support me in what I'm trying to do," Barto said. "He apologized and I respect him for apologizing, and I'm not trying to tarnish his legacy."
After all, Barto is only pushing for South George Wallace Drive to be renamed, not North George Wallace Drive.
"I'm not trying to take North George Wallace away because I respect the man. Like I said, he was determined and that's what I admire about him. He was a very determined man. But he was an opportunist, and I feel like John Lewis should be celebrated if we're going to celebrate George Wallace too," Barto said.
Barto said the reason for only wanting to change the name of South George Wallace Drive is because it's closer to the university.
"The main road that students take is named after a man who celebrated segregation and this is an international school. He ran a campaign on segregation," Barto said.
His petition did not come without opposition.
"I have a lot of people giving me their opinion. It's like either their supportive of it and then they're telling me what I should do and what I'm doing wrong, or they're not supportive of it and they're telling me what I'm doing wrong. I'm just going to stick to what I believe is right and my morals," Barto said.
One person who opposes the renaming of South George Wallace Drive is Judge Wes Allen who is currently running for the Alabama House of Representatives. In a statement he released on Facebook,he said:
To which Barto said: "To the elect Judge Wes Allen, we respect you. We respect George Wallace. We respect your right to oppose us as should you respect our right to oppose you."