This site is an extension, amplification, and evolution, of the Flickr pool, MLK BLVD.
That pool, established in 2005, has attracted hundreds of images of MLK Blvds., Drives, Avenues, Streets, Ways, etc., from all around the United States.
However, the more images there are in the pool, the harder it is to browse.
Thus, this site.
One goal of this site is simply to highlight, and organize (by city) some of the more striking, interesting, or memorable contributions to the MLK BLVD Flickr Pool.
The second goal is to expand the scope of this project to include articles, essays, and other material, that is relevant to the MLK BLVD topic. All contributions are welcome. If you wish to contribute, contact walker AT robwalker DOT net.
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Sometime in the mid 1990s, I became interested in how many cities have a street named for Martin Luther King Jr., and how many of these MLK Blvds seemed to have an awful lot of abandoned property, scary-looking bars, and small groceries that accept food stamps. I though it would be interesting to do some sort of book, a photo book, on the subject of this “legacy.” In 2000 I moved to New Orleans with E (now my wife) where I had many, many occasions to drive up and down the length of Martin Luther King, day and night. Just to give a sense of it: The business I found most intriguing was Project Food Store, which was just across the street from a housing project.
So, I took pictures. And a number of those pictures ended up in my book Letters From New Orleans.
That book was completed in 2003, and published in 2005. By 2003, I had decided that rather than try to tackle this subject on my own, it might be smarter to create a web site, and turn “MLK Blvd” into a sort of “open source” journalism project — interested parties could send in their own photos, or histories, or interviews, or documents. It could be open-ended. It would be a great thing for students of journalism or sociology or urban planning to participate in. I would be particularly excited if I could attract contributions from people who actually live on or near an MLK.
In 2003, we moved from New Orleans to Jersey City, and by chance I got wind of a showing of a documentary called MLK Boulevard, which later aired on the Times Discovery Channel. At the showing I also learned that a book was about to be published: Along Martin Luther King: Travels On Black America’s Main Street. This book, written by Jonathan Tilove and with many photographs by Michael Falco, evolved out of a series for Newhouse News Service, which had appeared in newspapers in 2002.
Obviously I felt at that point that my idea had lost some of its, you know, claims to originality. (Here is a summation of mainstream journalistic coverage of MLK Blvds.)
However, I remained attracted to the idea of something a little bit different, and ideally more collaborative. I have no specific agenda about shaping a particular meaning of MLK Blvds. Maybe my generalizations above are all wrong — certainly Tilove and Falco’s book (which says that there are 650 MLKs in the U.S.) suggests different points of view.
And now, in 2007: This site.
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My name is Rob Walker. I make no claim to being any kind of photographer. I’m a journalist. I am a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine. As indicated above, I am the author of the book Letters From New Orleans. More about me here. In 2006, I moved, with my wife, E, to Savannah, Georgia, where we presently reside.
I do not have an “angle” on MLK Blvds. I am not trying to make a particular statement, or argument. I’m interested in your statement, or point of view.
Any point of view is welcome.
In fact, it’s encouraged.
That’s the whole idea.
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To Mr. James Gaddy, for his invaluable help and consultation in the early formation of this project.