Confederate confusion surrounds Lincoln Heights street name

LINCOLN HEIGHTS – Was Johnston Street named after a Confederate general or his son?  That’s an important distinction because, in a report published last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the street was included among 1,500 Confederate symbols in public spaces nationwide.  The author of that report now calls Johnston Street’s place on that list a mistake, according to  Curbed L.A.

Johnston Street was not – probably not – named after Albert Sidney Johnston, a Confederate general who lived in this neighborhood before bleeding to death in the Civil War. The street, which stretches nearly 1-1/2 miles from  a commercial area on the south to a hilly residential area on the north, seems to be named after his son, Hancock M. Johnston, says Curbed L.A. Hancock Johnston helped subdivide the land – and helped name the streets.

Not that Hancock Johnston wasn’t his father’s son in certain respects. It would have rankled him greatly when this neighborhood – formerly known as East Los Angeles – was renamed after Abraham Lincoln in 1917. LA Weekly notes that Hancock Johnston and his uncle – Dr. John Strother Griffin, credited as the founder of the neighborhood – considered Lincoln a “despot” and “tyrant.”

And since there are few planning records and nothing in writing that confirms the intent of the name, L.A.’s archivist, Michael Holland, says it’s still possible Johnston Street was named to honor Johnston’s family, or even the elder Johnston – the highest ranking general on either side to be killed during the Civil War.

But we at least know this: One block east of Johnston Street (and two blocks from Griffin Street, named for Dr. Griffin) – is Hancock Street. That one definitely isn’t named after the general.

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