Nashville’s historic Fifth Avenue, the site of numerous lunch counter sit-ins in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, has been renamed Rep. John Lewis Way at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Jefferson Street.
Rep. Lewis began his lifelong crusade for civil rights and civic justice in Nashville while a student at Fisk University and the American Baptist Theological Seminary. He was a leader in the historic lunch counter sit-ins that led to Nashville becoming the first Southern city to start the desegregation of public places. In 1961, he represented the Nashville group of the burgeoning civil rights movement as one of the 13 original ‘Freedom Riders.’
Later, Lewis embarked on a career in public service, first as an Atlanta City Council member, then as a Congressman representing Georgia’s Fifth District.
Renaming Fifth Avenue in Nashville for Rep. John Lewis began as a community wide initiative started by the Minority Caucus of the Metropolitan Nashville/ Davidson County Council.
Metropolitan Nashville Public Works staff installed temporary signage, following the Metro Council’s approval of an ordinance in November to change the name.
“This is a fitting tribute to Rep. Lewis, and a great day for Nashville in honoring his life and legacy,” said Metro Councilmember-at-Large Zulfat Suara, chair of the Rep. John Lewis Way Committee and representative of the Council’s Minority Caucus.
Fifth Avenue will now be Rep. John Lewis Way from Jefferson Street to Oak Street at the Nashville City Cemetery. The temporary signage is to accommodate emergency vehicles and Metro Police until the permanent signage is installed in July when the street will be dedicated as part of a ‘Rep. John Lewis Way’ celebration, coinciding with the first anniversary of Rep. Lewis’s death. Lewis passed away on July 17, 2020. An initial celebration, set for February, was postponed due to the pandemic.
“We will have a formal dedication in July, hopefully when it is safer to gather as a community to fully pay tribute to Rep. Lewis, his days in Nashville, and his contributions to civil rights,” Suara said.