Whose Neighborhood Should Get a Street Named for Dr. King?

A fight is brewing in Kansas City over whether choosing a boulevard on the mainly black East Side to name for Martin Luther King Jr. would honor his legacy or reinforce the segregation he fought.

Comments: 61

  1. When I worked in Lynchburg, VA - they had renamed 5th Street to Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. All of the white people I knew refused to call it by it's "new" name - even years later. The first responders and police wouldn't even acknowledge it. These were their reasons for fighting the name: 1)It's Reverse Racism 2)It Changes History 3)It Erases White Culture 4)It's Shoving Their Views Down our Throats. Oh, and they generally finish with - "Heritage not Hate" when pointing out they are definitely "Not Racist." Sadly, changing a street name won't make any difference based on location. When people are racist and bigoted - they continue to raise children who are racist and bigoted. The cycle never ends.

  2. Here in NYC, Avenue of the Americas (and Fashion Avenue) are referred to by residents by their original numbers, 6th (and 7th), rather than by their names. And it's been more than 70 years.

  3. I want to see a vigorous, thriving street named for Dr. King, one that is traveled by all sorts of people. We have east west running streets that could easily be re-named that would make all Kansas Citians remember his greatness regularly. We have 63rd Street running through both sides of the city, and this would be a unifying re-naming were it chosen to carry the honor.

  4. The best solution for any municipality—and the one that would best honor Dr. King’s dream—is to confer his name on the most prominent thoroughfare in town that goes through and connects BOTH black and white communities (indeed, all ethnicities).

  5. Yes, that's what was done in Austin, where 19th street, connecting the whiter areas around the University of Texas to historically black neighborhoods on the east side, was renamed M.L.K.

  6. “It is a travesty to the progress of racial justice and racial integration that it’s being stopped,”

    A street name?

  7. I think that every city has a Martin Luther King Ave or Drive. Racial integration demands more?

  8. Why not choose a road that's running down the middle of the city to name 'Martin Luther King' ?

  9. I truly don’t think a street name, achool name, etc causes people to reflect at all on that individual. Just look at all the streets, schools, parks, buldings where we don’t have any idea of what role that person played, nor care. I’m pushing for going back to not naming anything after any people - go back to Oak St or 4th St and schools named for an area like Springfield High. That being said, the MLK street designation acts as a curse on an area; you see a highway exit for King Blvd, drive on! It’s somewhat like the effect of their names for the children pictured. Subconscious or not, it stamps racial identity.

  10. Ellie,
    Please don't think that your city/town/experience represents everyone's. People of color don't drive on when they "see ... KIng Blvd" because they already live there. You mean whites avoid places with stamps of racial (black) identity. Likewise, that does not hold in many highly populous regions. The San Francisco Bay Area, for example has vibrant, well loved, MLK streets and schools and the people are very well aware of the meaning and often reflect in a multitude of ways.

  11. I disagree. I'm always curious about the name behind a street or a highway or a building and I make it a point to look up that which I don't know. When did Americans become so intellectually lazy??

  12. What difference does it make which street in which area gets a new street name? Enough token symbolism. Address the underlying issues of economic and racial injustice, then put up a street sign.

  13. The US Congress should immediately enact a law to ban the ceaseless naming of roads in favour of a few chosen personalities.
    A quota has to be imposed.Ain't there other befitting candidates.
    This needless imposition of a few names on all roads is against the very ethos of egalitarianism & of the concept that all have equal opportunity before law & as an corollary,equal rights to have their names immortalised in the American mind,through signages on the road.Violet Blue Circle...
    Instead of squabbling over a few personalities who seem to have monopolised the right to be named as the road sign,I request the authorities to choose from varied personalities from variegated field of work,who have created modern US as a fitting examples to be named & admired.It will boost the morale of those who work ceaselessly to make US a better place to live.
    Similarly,statues of varied heroes should be put up instead of a chosen few.

  14. People have been name roads after great leaders since ancient days. Are we to remove the names Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lee, Jackson, Roosevelt, and Kennedy, among many others, or are you suggesting that only Dr. King's name, among younger Americans, should no longer be added to the honor role of great Americans?

  15. If you want to avoid looking at real estate in certain neighborhoods or other things then when you look at a map and see Martin Luther King Blvd. etc you know where you are. That;s just life in America. It's like Zip Codes. Now in my case I was actually thinking of moving to (Martin Luther King Blvd.) a some what black neighborhood in Saint Augustine's but the Hipsters are gentrifying the place.

  16. I grew up in Kansas City and recall black students being bussed to my junior high, with one gym class for whites, one for blacks. Attitudes are paved deep in sad old Kansas City but perhaps this sign could help invigorate the conversation on both sides of the street: MLK Content of Character Way.

  17. What I find most disconcerting is that in many municipalities, those streets renamed for King are not named along their entire lengths. In particular, in this city, New Orleans, one of our "muses" streets was renamed MLK, but only through the predominantly black neighborhood. Melpomene St stayed Melpomene on the "other side" of town, and continues to run with Erato, Clio, Calliope, and the others.

    If the renaming interferes with a neighborhood pattern of streets, as in the nine Muses, I say select another with a less famous name.

    In my opinion, and living in a majority black city, it would have been more fitting to have an MLK Boulevard or Avenue, run the length of our Broad St. Broad has a neutral tone to it, and would not be missed. It is also a long street, a mix of commercial and residential. My other choice would be Rampart/St Claude, a developing, long street that is gentrifying, and runs from our central business district to the city line for several miles. It runs through "mixed" neighborhoods, along the edge of the Vieux Carre, and through beautifully redeveloped commercial and residential areas.

    King is a hero for all people and for all eras............

  18. Where I grew up, the Southern plains, the streets named after civil rights icons and Democratic presidents like JFK were always situated in the most crime ridden, poorest, mostly black, areas of the city. Never in the "nice" white parts of town. It tells you a lot about what the power interests and the white residents of these areas actually think of these leaders.

  19. Insted of arguing about which Street should be named after Dr. King, Why not an Airpot or a Bridge. There are airports named after Bob Hope, and john wayne. Gov. Cuomo had the bridge that replaced the Tappen Zee bridge anmed after his late father and former Governor of NY Mario Cuomo. Flying into MLK does have a nice ring, and all people use airpots and bridges.

  20. There was an airport named after Bob Hope, but it was changed to the Hollywood Burbank Airport in 2016. It's in Burbank, not Hollywood (and Hollywood is no longer Hollywood); There (sadly) the OC airport sometimes called the John Wayne Airport (SNA) - probably because the actor lived nearby, and the area in mostly a bastion of conservatism (especially Newport Beach and CDM). A lot of locals think is an shame since they consider him a macho fraud. I recall he visited a military hospital during WW2 dressed as a cowboy, and the soldiers threw him out with cat calls - tossing bed pans at him...which may have been as close to military battle as he ever got. Does it matter where MLK street is? Maybe we should think of all the streets called Kingshighway as MLK streets and not worry about? Doesn't J.Edgar Hoover have a vacuum cleaner named after him? The Vikings discovered America and all they have to show for it is the name of a bunch of football teams (mostly high schools). I have a room in my house named after Elton John.
    The Elton. Vespucci got a country named after him because a Germany mapmakers got it wrong. And speaking of Columbus, he never used that name to call himself in his lifetime. It was Colon. None if it makes sense.

  21. It may have been Chris Rock who made the sad observation that if you’re in a strange town and find yourself on Martin Luther King Boulevard you’d better get outa there quick. Folks laughed but it wasn’t really funny was it?

  22. I am from KC. My black parents (neither of them were KC natives) bought their first home just to the east of Troost. They had both the money and desire to buy west of Troost, but times were different then. We moved to the suburbs a few years later because the public schools were better there. Now they live in an even further out KC suburb. And I live in a suburb on the opposite side of the city. I don’t live in KCMO proper, but I work and shop in KCMO. As a black person myself, I would prefer no MLK Blvd. I don’t see any real benefit, but I do see lots of downsides. But if there has to be one, have it be an east-west running street that is north of 63rd street. That’s the only I could see it being uniting instead of dividing.

  23. School names are even harder. Which families would be OK with having their children attend Martin Luther King, Jr., Elementary School?

  24. This is sad. Does anyone remember that Dr. King led the Poor PEOPLE's March, not the Poor Black People's March? His empathy was not offered only to those who shared his shade of skin, but extended to the repressed and underserved of any color. Streets should be named after him in any neighborhood that wants one, since we all need to remember his teachings.

  25. There are over 150 years of history for many of these street names, I'm not sure why we need to change the names of already important and historical streets at all.

    If they are going to change a street name why not a numbered street whose name has no significance other than fitting numerically in order.

    Also numbered streets in Kansas City run east and west connecting the white and black communities of the city.

  26. If more of the energy being put into naming a street were put into combating poverty and crime in poor neighborhoods, perhaps Kansas City would be less segregated.

  27. What do you mean by that?

  28. Just what I said. When everyone has a chance, people move out of ghettos and cities are less segregated.

  29. Everything's up to date in Kansas City
    They've gone about as far as they can go...
    Considering that KANSAS City isn't even in Kansas, maybe the solution is to rename the whole city for Dr. King. They could even keep all the KC monographed items.

  30. That's factually inaccurate. There are two part of Kansas City- one in Missouri and one in Kansas. The Kansas side of KC is not the touristy one. There isn't much there. But the nonetheless, it's still K.C.

  31. The question is, why are neighborhoods still so segregated that we're having this discussion?

  32. As Malcolm X pointed out, if you knew where the Lincoln School was, you knew where the Black section of a city was.

    It should be a road connecting both parts of Kansas City. If there is no such road, then it should be the main business street.

  33. This is the neighborhood where I grew up. My grade school was on Tracy Ave. which was two short blocks west of The Paseo. All the the black kids in school filed out and headed east. They all lived east of The Paseo. Troost Ave. is 4 short blocks to the west. I lived two blocks further west.

    Paseo was lined with majestic homes, many old mansions. Troost was a bustling business corridor. You could find just about any kind of shop there, all walking distance form home. We would often shop there or ride the bus downtown.

    After the riots in 68, the section between Troost and Paseo went all black, massive white flight. Troost soon died. All the businesses closed up. My neighbor was shot dead there. A classmate from grade school was shot dead two blocks east of Troost walking to referee a church volleyball game. I walked by that church everyday in grade school.

    Troost has long since been the racial dividing line in KC. The area to the west has experienced some gentrification. So many fine old homes that deserve to be restored. When my uncle died, I inherited my childhood home and spent three years renovating it. Sold it two weeks before the market crashed in 2008. My family owned that house since April, 1945.

    There is so much history in that area. So many memories for all of us, from happy times to murder. There is no way renaming any street is going to please most people there, and it isn't going to get people to want to live together.

  34. I grew up in Kansas City north of the Missouri River in the 50s and 60s. I attended the only all white high school in KC. That was the reality then.

    Words and names matter. Renaming a major north-south corridor or a bridge over the river that would metaphorically connect the city would be a possibility.
    But I agree the street that is ultimately chosen should run through areas that are most visible to all residents and visitors. And maybe a few of those people will reflect on what Dr. King's life meant.

  35. Seriously? How about we put it anywhere and just forget that race exists. Let's try that for just one day. OK?

  36. So much irony in this piece and article thrust. Dr. King rallied for equality, inclusion, a racial barrier free society. Yet here we are in 2018 arguing that a street name is located in a more white than black community.

    Over the last 8 years I have noticed that the news and topics focus more to divide us by differences in color and class than to unite us all in a quest for greater good.

  37. Maybe cities should stop doing things just so they will be perceived as sensitive.

  38. White America needed Dr. King to speak truth to power. His message is needed still, and any reminders of it, particularly to White America, are worthwhile.

  39. I realize it may not be nice but everytime I am on or have to go to a street named Martin Luther King Boulevard I know it's a Black neighborhood, I guess it is time to change the way we name streets. No disrespect to Dr King intended.

  40. The comedian Chris Rock (who's black) used to make this a staple of his stand-up routine: “If a friend calls you on the telephone and says they’re lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard and they want to know what they should do, the best response is ‘Run!'” I wonder what Dr. King would have to say about the cycle of disinvestment (etc.) in neighborhoods with streets named for him. But that's the underlying problem, not the street names themselves. In the Kansas City case, renaming J.C. Nichols Parkway seems like a creative idea.

  41. I think that the most traveled, most popular street in Kansas City should be named for Martin Luther King. Naming a street in and African-American enclave would sent the messages, especially in Missouri, the MLK is only important to African Americans.

  42. Too bad that Kansas City is so segregated that the city government cannot find a street, avenue, or boulevard that transcends racial boundaries.

  43. The reporter Jonathan Tilove wrote about book, many years ago, about the hundreds of streets named for MLK Jr. He found many instances in which a street would be renamed for Dr. King, but only in the part of the street going through an African American community. The same thoroughfare would have a different name on the other side of the tracks, so to speak. Sacramento, where I live, had controversy about renaming, as did other places, but it is interesting to note that the street it renamed 30 years ago was the street that bore the city's name, Sacramento Boulevard. I wrote about that in my book on street names in Sacramento.

  44. I am not sure why it is either necessary or desirable to name yet another street in yet another city after Martin Luther King who has been dead for 50 years. There must already be thousands of MLK streets, boulevards, and drives. Doesn't the continuing movement for civil rights in America deserve something more imaginative?

  45. As you can see, I live in Kansas City. I moved here , and was always surprised that there was no street named for Dr. King. While Paseo is a large north -south boulevard, what would be more symbolic is to change the name of Troost Ave, which has always been the racial dividing line in this city.

  46. Berkeley, CA got it right, as it sometimes does, with its Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Centrally located and long enough to encompass varied neighborhoods.

  47. I still can't believe how much energy this country spends on symbolism and how little energy it spends on substance.

  48. Having grown up in Cincinnati, Ohio that came up with the best way to resolve this issue. The name a street after Dr. King that goes through both black and white neighborhoods. What is interesting is that white neighborhood that is now mixed is where the University of Cincinnati is. When the land was provided to build the university that was a clause. The clause was that no black people would be able to attend the university on the land would be reverted by to the McMillan family. Best place neighborhood for MLK drive to go through.

  49. “Let’s have white folks cross east of Troost,” Mr. Howard said.

    And as soon as they do, the residents will start complaining about gentrification, I suspect.

  50. Does anyone else appreciate the irony that we can not decide whether we should put Dr. King boulevard in either of two segregated parts of town?

  51. Here in St Paul, after considerable debate, they solved the problem several years ago by renaming Constitution Avenue, a 3-block long street lined with government buildings and parkland, Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. There is not a person of any color who lives within blocks of this street.

  52. Where I work, all the predominately white Europeans working in marketing get MLK day off; all the predominately darker skinned production works have to work. What does it all mean?

  53. Whatever. It doesn't make sense to retain a street name in honor of a racist real estate developer (I don't mean Trump Street this time) or in honor of a Mexican thoroughfare (?). Using the latter "logic," why not call it Calle Street or Bulevar Boulevard? I thought the NAACP advised blacks to leave Missouri anyway.

  54. Finally this point is made.

  55. The biggest, best street, avenue or parkway running through the Entire City. DUH.

  56. It is amazing people are willing to put so much energy into this instead of helping the black residents get a better education, enter the work force and contribute to society at large.

  57. If they want symbolism, put Dr. King's name be on a bridge.

  58. I keep thinking of Chris Rock's joke about naming streets for MLK and how they are always in black neighborhoods and how even he doesn't want to drive down MLK.

  59. If a white neighborhood names a street after Dr. King, some black performer will scream cultural misappropriation.

    Curious. Any streets named after Harriet Tubman? Or even an Amtrak route?

  60. Given what happened in Philadelphia a few days ago, I can't think of a better way to force white people to consider Dr. King's legacy than to name a Starbucks store for him.

  61. Forget "predominantly black, predominantly white." That's racist thinking and covert segregation.

    Hey! black man! Go live on a black man street!

    Find a street through the center of town. Dr. King went right through the center of 20th century history. Nothing less should do.