In keeping with the spirit of my current Atlanta blog and the holiday last Monday this Find Out Friday I have explored the legacy Martin Luther King Jr. has left behind in a brand new way, how the public has chosen to honor him all around our country.
On separate days I noticed that I have seen more than one street, road, and even bridge named for the late reverend. The first street was in Staten Island, New York and the bridge was in New Jersey. I began to wonder if I could find out how many there were in total. I had always thought that when streets or roadways were named for famous people they would be former residents or have some significant ties to the region. But such is not always the case and when it comes to Reverend King I found out way more than I bargained for.
As of January 18, 2016:
“There are approximately 900 streets named after King in the United States, including in Puerto Rico, according to research by Derek Alderman, head of the geography department at the University of Tennessee. Cities began naming and renaming streets after King immediately following his assassination in 1968.”
Nine hundred!! Holy crap!!
Those streets are found in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Many of these roads exist outside of the United States in places such as Italy and Israel.
Blogger Chris Allen has discovered that “according to Google Maps, 58 out of the 100 most populous cities have a road named after Martin Luther King.”
Journalist Adele Peters is one of many who have written pieces exploring what life is like of the streets named for this peaceful leader. This issue is VERY common when streets named after King are discussed.
Peters found that:
“If you live on or near one of the nearly 900 streets in the U.S. named after Martin Luther King, Jr., you're more likely to be poor, and you're more likely to be black. And some might argue that your street serves more as a symbol of inequality than of progress made since King's death.”
This paradox is maddening. Apparently a lot of people agree. There are now many groups forming in some of these communities to restore the name, so to speak, in such neighborhoods.
There is a strong sociological and culture link between a street named for an African American hero and those whose lives are struggling living there.
As Alderman also said:
“It’s a bitter irony; we’re commemorating a man who battled against segregation by segregating his memory”.
I hope that these statistics are a thing of the past and that these community groups are able to do good works. Not just because it is important for all members of society to thrive but especially because those living on the streets named after King should be honoring him by leading successful lives helping others as would have made him proud.
As for my progress along my personal MLK Jr. journey, I still need to visit the historic counties of Selma and Birmingham in Alabama as well as his memorial in Washington D.C. to feel complete.
Prior to today I had thought was well acquainted with this man, especially since spending time in his old stomping grounds in the Sweet Auburn District of Atlanta (http://bit.ly/2kzJzxb). However it turns out my education was just beginning.
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