After a decision 44 years in the making, Memphis, Tennessee has finally named a roadway in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board voted in January to rename Linden Avenue to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Last month, another motion was approved to extend the avenue that runs through downtown Memphis for almost a full mile. The street is significant as it is where King last marched, side by side with sanitation workers.
“We never wanted to address losing Dr. King’s life here,” Berlin Boyd, the former Memphis City Councilman who first introduced the initiative, told CNN. “I had the opportunity to do something, and we got it done.”
Like many residents, Boyd was very aware that there was no street recognizing the civil rights leader.
Nonetheless, some leaders in the community are not content in the way the City has chosen to honor Dr. King. They find fault in the fact that only one section of the street chosen to recognize Dr. King will bear his name.
“It doesn’t make sense that we are gonna chop up a street and then name it after a man who didn’t chop up his life. He had his whole life,” the Rev. James Netters told CBS affiliate WREG. “If we are gonna do something and really express appreciation for what he has done for this city and world, we ought to be decent enough to name a full street after him.”
In 1971, Netters was the city council member fighting to get Dr. King proper recognition in Memphis. His efforts went unanswered, as he finally had to settle for a stretch of Interstate 240 named after Dr. King, instead of a street in town.
In what would be his last stand for equality, Martin Luther King Jr. made the fateful trip to Memphis, Tennessee in April of 1968. Sanitation workers in the city needed equal wages, and rights and after weeks of strike, they called on the Baptist minister for help.
In the middle of his Poor People’s Campaign, which sought healthcare and adequate jobs and housing for all Americans, Dr. King accepted his last invitation and joined marchers in Memphis for his last protest. It was on this trip that Dr. King delivered his “I’ve Seen the Mountaintop” speech at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ.
To date, more than 900 cities have seen fit to keep Dr. King’s legacy alive in granting him an avenue, boulevard, street, or by-way.