Tiffany Friesen and Atiba Mbiwan were among the residents fighting to change the name of Confederate Avenue in Atlanta, where they have lived for more than a decade.

These Atlanta neighbors no longer wanted to live on Confederate Avenue. Here's what they did about it

Updated 2:01 PM ET, Sun January 20, 2019

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Atlanta (CNN)Tiffany Friesen is still getting used to her new address. Out of habit, she sometimes says she lives on Confederate Avenue, where she and her husband Atiba Mbiwan have been for years.

But she doesn't. Not anymore. After years of discussion and months of neighborly activism, her street has a new name: United Avenue.
In late November, city workers drove up and down Confederate and East Confederate Avenues in Atlanta and replaced old street signs with new ones that renamed the 1.5-mile stretch.
"Wow, this is really real," thought Friesen upon seeing the first United Avenue sign. She immediately went out and took a picture of the sign nearest her.
It's a small change -- one new word on their mail, address labels and documents. And yet it's so much more.
What happened in this neighborhood is not unlike the discussions playing out in cities across the South, where officials are debating what to do with streets and monuments that honor the legacy of the Confederacy. But residents here decided they weren't going to wait for city officials to act.
    Instead the Neighbors for a New Name, as they called themselves, took matters into their own hands.
    A monument to Confederate soldiers in Oakland Cemetery, less than a mile from the former Confederate Ave. in Atlanta.
    It may not seem like much. After all, Atlanta has nearly three dozen other streets named for the Confederacy or Confederate figures -- not to mention a collection of Confederate monuments and statues protected by state law.
    But ahead of United Avenue's formal commemoration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, some folks who worked to rename the street told CNN they view their success as a first step.
    And their city councilwoman says their grassroots campaign could serve as a blueprint for how other communities in Atlanta -- whose slogan is "The City Too Busy to Hate" -- might rename their own streets that honor the Confederacy.
    "This is one small step for humankind," Mbiwan said. "But it's the beginning of a new era."

    How the street got its name

    United Avenue is a quiet, mostly residential street that runs southeast from historic Grant Park and contains a mix of homes, churches, an apartment complex and several state government offices.
    It lies within a mile of historic Oakland Cemetery, where more than 6,000 Confederate soldiers are buried.
    But Confederate and East Confederate Avenues were not named directly after the Confederacy per se, according to Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center. Their namesake was actually an old soldiers' home on the road that housed Georgia's aging Confederate veterans long after the Civil War ended.
    Graves of Confederate soldiers line Oakland Cemetery.
    The state acquired the soldiers' home in 1900, according to the Atlanta History Center, and it opened in 1901. The last Confederate veteran to live there died in 1941, and the home catered to veterans' widows until it closed in 1963. It was destroyed in 1965.