On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mayor David Briley held a ceremonial signing of legislation renaming part of Charlotte Ave. for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The previous night, the Nashville Metro Council unanimously passed legislation for the name change that was sponsored by Councilwoman Sharon Hurt.
“I am so excited and honored to be here at this moment. I think it is a wonderful day in Nashville,” said Hurt. “I know I’m not the first person, or the only person who ever thought about changing the name of a street [in Nashville] after Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Hurt said the impetus for honoring Dr. King locally with the renaming of a street was spurred by community activist and Nashville Pride photographer Lucas Leverett.
Leverett proposed renaming a corridor that joined Tennessee State University with Vanderbilt University in honor of Dr. King after a visit to Atlanta. Hurt said that after meeting with Councilman Ed Kindall, whose district the street would have run through, they decided “to do something on Charlotte because we don’t need to always be in the low income community.”
“So it’s because of Ed Kindall we decided to continue to pursue this and he was very supportive of me, as well as other council members.”
“Nashville is paying long overdue homage to a great American leader who continues to inspire us with his profound example of love, peace and nonviolent action,” said Mayor Briley. “Renaming the downtown portion of Charlotte Ave. in honor of Dr. King will forever remind us of our past and of our commitment to racial equality that moves the city forward together.”
Dr. King visited Nashville in 1960 to offer his support for the movement to end racial segregation and praised the city’s downtown lunch counter sit-ins. Trained in nonviolent protest, sit-in participants refused to retaliate in the face of verbal and physical abuse, and on May 10, six downtown stores began serving Black customers at their lunch counters for the first time.
Some of the Nashville Freedom riders, elected officials, and community leaders were on hand at the signing ceremony, which took place just east of the terminus of Charlotte Ave. at Nashville’s Witness Walls public art installation. The installation features key Civil Rights moments in Nashville, including school desegregation, lunch counter sit-ins, economic boycotts, marches, meetings and Freedom Rides.
The council voted to rename the stretch of Charlotte Ave. from Third Ave. North to Interstate 40 (which includes the Tennessee State Capitol) for King. The name change will take effect after the next gubernatorial election in November.