MLK Blvd as “Landscape of Memory”

The Fall 2008 issue of Southern Cultures, a scholarly journal, included a photo essay about MLK Blvds compiled by Derek Alderman, who has done research on MLKs in the past. The abstract says:

Traditionally, public commemoration in the South has been devoted largely to remembering the region’s role in the Civil War and the mythic Old South plantation culture supposedly lost as a result of that conflict. These memories remain deeply ingrained in the southern landscape of monuments, museums, historical markers, and place names. Yet, African Americans who seek to make their own claim to the South and its history increasingly challenge Civil War-centered conceptions of the past. Perhaps the best known of these struggles involve ongoing calls to remove public symbols of the Confederacy. At the same time, African American southerners are using direct political action to build memorials that recognize their own historical experiences, struggles, and achievements. A major pillar in this trend is the commemoration of another, quite different revolution from that of the Civil War—the Civil Rights Movement.

The naming of streets after slain Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. is the most widespread example of African American efforts to rewrite the landscape of southern commemoration. Despite the growing frequency of naming streets in honor of Dr. King, this new cultural phenomenon has received limited attention, even though the inscription of King’s legacy onto streets is a potentially valuable indicator of where the South is in terms of race relations.

The photos include several culled from this site. They’re used by permission of the photographers, and credited properly, but unfortunately this site and project are not mentioned.


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