NASHVILLE, TN — On Wednesday, the nation marks the 50th anniversary of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis. On Tuesday, the Metro Council voted to rename a 10 block stretch of a major downtown street for the civil rights leader.
Charlotte Avenue between 3rd Avenue and Interstate 40 will become "Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Boulevard" following an unanimous vote of the council and the signing of the resolution by Mayor David Briley.
Nashville is one of the few major American cities that did not have a street named for King, though a North Nashville bridge already bears his name.
University of Tennessee geography professor David Alderman, who studies civil rights memorials, told WSMV Nashville’s decision is notable because the city chose to name a street in a major center of civic life and commerce – indeed, the stretch of road goes past the Tennessee State Capitol – for the civil rights icon, whereas many streets named for King are not in prominent parts of cities.
"Most of King’s namesakes you don’t find in very prominent thoroughfares and high-development areas, so this can be a major change in how King’s name is symbolized," he told the station.
The name change won’t officially go into effect until after the November election under an agreement with state government. Because the street is home to numerous state offices, it will require a change to official letterheads. With Gov. Bill Haslam term-limited, the state asked Metro to wait until his successor is elected so the letterheads would only have to be changed once.
The change wasn’t without controversy. Charlotte is one of the few streets in the city named for a woman – Charlotte Robertson, an early pioneer and wife of Nashville’s founder James Robertson – and it could be argued that the street cannot be renamed without state approval because Charlotte Robertson fought in the Battle of the Bluffs, during which she legendarily let slip the dogs to attack Native Americans, thus putting the street under the auspices of the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.
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