Is there a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in every city in the United States?
Not quite, but his memory lives on in the form of street signs in hundreds of U.S. cities across the country.
As of 2014, according to citylab.com, 900-plus streets in a total of 42 states were named after Martin Luther King Jr. King’s home state of Georgia has the most. There are more than a dozen freeways named after him, too, including one in Louisville.
The first U.S. street to be named after Dr. King was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Chicago in 1968, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Here in Ashland, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is also known as 12th Street. Until March 2019, it was the only street named after Dr. King in the tri-state area. The Portsmouth City Council labeled Findlay Street between 12th and 16th Streets as Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Ashland’s MLK Boulevard is one of eight MLK streets in the Commonwealth.
In 2016, cnn.com published a story about Melvin White, a postal worker who visited streets named after the reverend and was disappointed. He observed that many were in poor neighborhoods with high crime rates and minimal hope.
What we must remember — and not just on one day a year (obviously Monday is Martin Luther King Day) — is Martin Luther King Jr. should never only be thought of as a street name. When we see his name on a street, let’s remember why the roadway bears his name.
King stood for equality. He stood for opportunity. He stood for change. He stood for hope. He stood for unity.
What these street names, as well as the 75-plus schools named after him, accomplish is flip that past tense (stood) to present tense (stands). Let’s remember what MLK truly stands for as we celebrate the holiday on Monday and going forward.