A Tale of Three Kings

Kansas City, Missouri ("KC") is the last major US city to have a street named after Martin Luther King Jr. This year, the KC City Council voted to rename a beloved historic boulevard that runs through a large swath of the black community to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Residents — many of whom are black and worried about the devaluing of their street — opposed the name change and started a petition to reverse it. Because sufficient signatures were gathered, an initiative to revert the name back to Paseo Boulevard will be on the city’s November ballot. A visit to three cities in different continents shows how King’s name signifies his legacy globally. Amsterdam, Netherlands — a small street, a popular park, and a statue bear his name. Dakar, Sénégal — the capital of this West African country has a boulevard bearing his name that curves the coastline. Memphis, Tennessee, the city where King was assassinated in 1968, — renamed a street in his honor only as recently as 2012, despite almost 900 roads of commemoration being renamed by that point. Despite how the KC vote goes in November, people will still be unpacking the street controversy and its impact on property values, prestige, and legacy by MLK Day 2020.