ArticlePDF Available

A Street Fit for a King: Naming Places and Commemoration in the American South

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The naming of streets after Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) is an importantarena for African Americans as they rewrite the landscape of southern identity and commemoration. While less ornate and ostentatious than museums and monuments, MLK streets are powerful and highly contested cultural geographies because of their potential to connect disparate communities and incorporate a vision of the past into the spatial practices of everyday life. They reveal the importance of location, particularly intra-urban location, to public memorialization. Naming streets for King is a significant part of the nonmetropolitan South as well as larger cities and dependent upon the relative size of a city's African-American population. When estimating the intra-urban character of MLK streets within several southern states, findings suggest that they are located in census areas that are generally poorer and with more African Americans than citywide averages. Analysis reveals a geographic unevenness in the frequency of businesses having an address identified with King. When compared with the stereotypical American thoroughfare of “Main” Street, the address composition of MLK streets appears to be more residential in nature, although there is significant state by state variation.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Professional Geographer, 52(4) 2000, pages 672–684 © Copyright 2000 by Association of American Geographers.
Initial submission, June 1999; revised submission, December 1999; final acceptance, February 2000.
Published by Blackwell Publishers, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, and 108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JF, UK.
A Street Fit for a King: Naming Places and Commemoration
in the American South*
Derek H. Alderman
East Carolina University
The naming of streets after Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) is an important arena for African Americans as they re-
write the landscape of southern identity and commemoration. While less ornate and ostentatious than museums and
monuments, MLK streets are powerful and highly contested cultural geographies because of their potential to con-
nect disparate communities and incorporate a vision of the past into the spatial practices of everyday life. They reveal
the importance of location, particularly intra-urban location, to public memorialization. Naming streets for King is a
significant part of the nonmetropolitan South as well as larger cities and dependent upon the relative size of a city’s
African-American population. When estimating the intra-urban character of MLK streets within several southern
states, findings suggest that they are located in census areas that are generally poorer and with more African Ameri-
cans than citywide averages. Analysis reveals a geographic unevenness in the frequency of businesses having an ad-
dress identified with King. When compared with the stereotypical American thoroughfare of “Main” Street, the
address composition of MLK streets appears to be more residential in nature, although there is significant state by
state variation.
Key Words: street naming, Martin Luther King, commemoration, American South.
Introduction
frican Americans and other racial and eth-
nic minorities are using direct political
action to challenge and change the commemo-
ration of the past within cultural landscapes,
constituting what Rhea (1997) called the “race
pride movement.” Blacks in the southeastern
US have taken a particularly active role in recon-
structing commemorative landscapes— from
calling for the removal of Confederate symbols
from public places to the building of memorials
and museums honoring the civil rights move-
ment (Secrest and May 1989; Auchmutey 1993;
Leib 1995; Cobb 1996; Sack 1996; Armada
1998; Davis 1998). Slain civil rights leader
Martin Luther King, Jr. occupies a controver-
sial focal point in this new movement to recog-
nize the historical achievements and struggles
of African Americans. Controversy over me-
morializing King is not limited to the South
but constitutes what Zerubavel (1996) called a
“national mnemonic battle,” as evident in past
and ongoing debates over establishing and ob-
serving a holiday in his honor (
The Economist
1983; Sigelman and Walkosz 1992; Potholm
1993; Alozie 1995; Mason 1998;
Chicago De-
fender
1999).
An important dimension of the race pride
movement has been the naming of places after
African-American figures in history (e.g., Black-
mon 1992; Horswell 1993; Samuels 1996). As
suggested by a growing number of scholars,
place names participate in larger struggles over
social and political identity and are used for re-
sisting the hegemonic order as well as repro-
ducing it (Cohen and Kliot 1992; Berg and
Kearns 1996; Myers 1996; Gonzales Faraco
and Murphy 1997; Herman 1999). Although
largely neglected by scholars, the names at-
tached to schools, businesses, streets and other
features have an important place in the symbolic
changes and struggles occurring within the
American South (Jensen 1997; Alderman and
Beavers 1999). This paper provides an empirical
look into one of the most widespread of the re-
gion’s new commemorative practices: the naming
of streets after Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK).
While reflecting the increased cultural and
political power of blacks and the liberalization
of white attitudes, MLK streets are often sites
of struggle for African Americans. Geography
plays a central role in these struggles (Alderman
1996). Controversy often revolves around issues
of determining which street in the city is most fit
or appropriate to identify with King. Debate
frequently arises over the confining of MLK
A
* I would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers of this paper. Helpful comments and support were also provided by Andrew Herod, Donna
G’Segner Alderman, and John Shelton Reed. A paper containing portions of this study won the 2000 J. Warren Nystrom Dissertation
Competition, sponsored by the Association of American Geographers.
A Street Fit for a King
673
streets to predominantly African-American areas
of the city. African-American activists often
argue that Martin Luther King’s commemora-
tion is important to all races and hence should
be accessible— locationally and culturally— to
larger and different publics. The naming of
major commercial thoroughfares is also conten-
tious, as many black leaders demand that King’s
name be placed on prominent and frequently
traveled streets. The most vocal opposition often
comes from businesses, citing— whether legiti-
mately or not— the cost and burden of reprint-
ing forms, stationery, address labels, and adver-
tisements containing the address change. Some
business and property owners have gone so far
as to express concern about the economic im-
pact of having their street identified with King
and, as they perceive it, the black community.
Chattanooga, TN aptly illustrates how the is-
sues of location, business, and race intersect with
each other when naming a street after King. In
January of 1982, the city changed the name of
Ninth Street to M.L.King, Jr. Blvd., ending sev-
eral months of debate over the issue (
Chatta-
nooga Times
1982). One of the major opponents
to the name change was a real estate developer
who owned a downtown office building on the
west end of the street and was in the process of
building another one there. The developer ar-
gued that he might not be able to rent office
space in a building with a MLK address because
of the racial overtones it might create. He sup-
ported the renaming of East Ninth Street but
not West Ninth Street. Specifically, he was
quoted as saying:
W. Ninth Street is not related to King . . . Ninth
Street is no longer a solid black street as it was
when I was a kid growing up. . . . It is no longer
a residential street or a rather rundown business
street. It is a top class business street that can
play a great part in the future of Chattanooga. . . .
When giving street names of this sort
(M.L.King Jr., Blvd.) . . . it implies some over-
tones that, perhaps, are not acceptable in the
fashion West Ninth Street is now being devel-
oped (
Chattanooga Times
1981a, B1).
When the Chattanooga city council refused to
rename Ninth Street, 300 African Americans
marched along the street. Armed with ladders
and singing “We Shall Overcome,” they defi-
antly yet temporally renamed the street by
pasting street signs with bumper stickers that
read “Dr. ML King, Jr. Blvd.” (
Chattanooga News-
Free Press
1981). After this protest and an emo-
tional request from a coalition of black and
white ministers, the council reversed its deci-
sion and the entire length of Ninth Street was
renamed for King (
Chattanooga Times
1981b).
Despite the success in Chattanooga, journal-
ists report that African Americans in the South
have generally been unsuccessful in attaching
King’s name to prominent thoroughfares that
cut through business districts and unite white
and black communities (Towns 1993). For in-
stance, one news reporter described Martin
Luther King Drive in Jackson, Mississippi as a
“boulevard of broken dreams” because crime,
poverty, racial segregation, and physical deteri-
oration dominate the street (Yardley 1995). The
supposed inferiority of MLK streets has even
found its way into the discourse of humor. As
Chris Rock explained in his HBO comedy series,
“if a friend calls you on the telephone and says
they’re lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard
and they want to know what they should do, the
best response is, “Run!” (Page 1998, 28).
Scholars have devoted little attention to doc-
umenting the occurrence of MLK streets in-
side or outside the South. Nor have they spent
much time determining the “place” of these
named streets in the racial and economic geog-
raphy of cities and towns. Stump (1988) is re-
sponsible for the earliest and, to date, only
study to measure spatial variation in MLK
street naming. While it was evident across the na-
tion, he found that street naming was concen-
trated in the southeastern United States (Fig. 1).
In addition to being over a decade old, Stump’s
data source (
National Five-Digit Zip Code and Post
Office Directory
) excluded smaller places, thus lim-
iting our understanding of MLK street naming as
distributed across the southern urban hierarchy.
Stump suggested that the popularity of MLK
streets in the South was a function of the large
black population living in the region. However,
he neglected to examine the racial composition
of cities involved in the naming process. By fo-
cusing so intently on the national and regional
distribution of MLK streets, Stump also failed to
consider the importance of intra-urban location
and the types of streets identified with King.
Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to describe and an-
alyze the emerging cultural geography of MLK
674
Volume 52, Number 4, November 2000
streets in the American South, and, in doing so,
explore the locational embeddedness of com-
memoration. First, as way of background, I es-
tablish the analytical value of examining street
names and outline their unique political and
commemorative qualities. Street naming illus-
trates the importance of location and geogra-
phy to the commemorative process. The re-
mainder of the paper then documents, maps,
and analyzes the geographic location, distribu-
tion, and characteristics of streets named after
King. I employ census data sources and an elec-
tronic telephone directory, an underutilized tool
in current place name research. After I identify
national patterns in streets bearing King’s name,
my analysis shifts to eleven southern states,
where street naming is examined in relation to
the size and racial composition of cities. Finally,
given the apparent importance of intra-urban
location to the process of commemorating King
through street naming, I estimate the residential
and commercial character of MLK streets
within southern cities and towns. In this process,
two primary questions are addressed. First, how
do census areas containing MLK streets com-
pare to their respective cities in terms of racial
and income characteristics? Second, how often
are businesses and other non-residential insti-
tutions with an MLK street address found?
Getting Street Smart: The Importance
of Location to Commemoration
Geographers have traditionally treated streets
in geometric terms, often classifying and study-
ing them as arcs, flows, and networks. Recent
literature suggests an alternative “reading” of
streets, one that views them as important cul-
tural and political arenas. “Streets are the terrain
of social encounters and political protest, sites of
domination and resistance, places of pleasure
and anxiety” (Fyfe 1998, 1). Streets, and trans-
portation in general, do not operate in a race
and class-neutral society: a politics underlies
their organization, use, and meaning (Bullard
and Johnson 1997).
Street naming, particularly for commemora-
tive purposes, represents an important and
highly contested practice in the political and
cultural geography of cities. For example, Yeoh
(1996) defined the strong ideological place that
street renaming held in Singapore’s attempt to
build a sense of national identity after indepen-
dence. Perhaps Azaryahu (1997, 480) stated the
importance of street names best: “In the jungle
of modern cities, street names are more than a
means of facilitating spatial orientation. Often
they are laden with political meanings and rep-
resent a certain theory of the world that is asso-
ciated with and supportive of the hegemonic
socio-political order.”
Commemorative street naming is a powerful
and controversial practice because it not only
participates in the construction and reification
of a selective vision of the past but also incorpo-
rates that version of history into the spatial
practices of everyday life (Azaryahu 1996, 321).
Because of its practical importance, street nam-
ing inscribes its ideological message into many
texts of urban life. Yvonne Aikens (1990, B1),
Figure 1:
Distribution of MLK streets in the US, 1987. Source: Stump (1988). Reprinted with permission.
A Street Fit for a King
675
who pushed to have a street named for King in
Tampa, FL, expressed this point well:
A street touches more people than if they had
just named a building after him downtown . . .
People who wouldn’t go to a building or a park
named for King drive on a major thoroughfare
such as Buffalo (now Martin Luther King, Jr.
Blvd.) for business or personal reasons. . . . They
see the name at intersections, on signs pointing
to the road, on maps. It pops up on addresses,
letters, business cards, constantly keeping King’s
name before the public. . . . More people come in
contact with it.
The power and politics of commemorative
street naming lie in its dual and simultaneous
existence as historical referent and spatial des-
ignation (Azaryahu 1996). A street name’s prac-
tical function does not necessarily lessen its
symbolic function. Rather, the commemorative
and political importance of street names come
from their importance as markers of location.
As suggested in a growing body of literature,
public commemoration is not simply about de-
termining the appropriateness of remembering
the past in a certain way; it is also a struggle
over where best to locate or place that memory
within the cultural landscape (Charlesworth
1994; Johnson 1994, 1995; Alderman 1996;
Azaryahu 1997; Till 1997; Johnson 1999).
The importance of location in commemo-
rating King through street naming is perhaps
no more apparent than in Brent, AL, where
blacks protested the attachment of King’s name
onto a road leading to a garbage dump. Rever-
end W.B. Dickerson, who petitioned the city
council to rename another, more prominent
street, was quoted as saying: “We want [Martin
Luther King Street] up where people can really
see it” (Yarbrough 1992, A3). The situation in
Brent affirms Johnson’s (1995, 51) suggestion
that geography is not simply the “incidental
material backdrop” for memory but plays an
active role in constructing the meaning of com-
memoration. As Johnson (1995, 63) also as-
serted, “. . . geographers are just beginning to
examine the relationship between the memori-
alization of the past and the spatialization of
public memory.”
While participating with memorials, monu-
ments, and museums in the spatialization of
memory, the street name has a unique loca-
tional dynamic. As suggested in this editorial,
streets have a connectivity that contributes to
their commemorative power and politicized
nature: “Renaming a street is a uniquely appro-
priate way to honor King. Streets unite diverse
neighborhoods. They touch all ages, all races,
all economic levels, and the resident and the
visitor equally. They link people and places that
otherwise would remain insular” (
St. Petersburg
Times
1990a, 2). The notion of connectivity is
of particular symbolic relevance to the com-
memoration of Martin Luther King. For in-
stance, African-American activist Allen Stucks
envisioned Tallahassee’s Martin Luther King,
Jr. Boulevard in terms of King’s goal of racial
integration: “‘Rev. King was about together-
ness . . . If his name was going to be on a street
in Tallahassee, it had to be on one that con-
nected one neighborhood to another. And it
had to be one you could find without having to
wiggle through the black community’” (quoted
in Ensley 1999, 1A). In the case of Tallahassee’s
MLK Boulevard, the street “connects one of
the nation’s oldest historically black universi-
ties to the entire city. It traces through black
neighborhoods, white neighborhoods, busi-
nesses, parks and cemeteries” (Ensley 1999,
1A). In another example of how King’s com-
memoration is represented and understood
through the connectivity and accessibility of
city streets, Jim Marshall (1999, B6), then mayor
of Macon, GA, stated:
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is Macon’s
“front door,” the primary entranceway to Ma-
con’s historic downtown. It begins at Exit 2 of
I-16, crosses the Ocumulgee River on the Otis
Redding Bridge and continues for several miles
. . . Macon lies at the heart of Georgia. Macon’s
Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard leads to the
heart of Macon— a fitting tribute to a man
whose courage and lessons changed the hearts of
many Americans.
As evident in the preceding statement, the lo-
cational power of MLK streets is also about
how well they connect with existing commem-
orative and historic spaces. In Eatonton, GA,
for example, Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
runs parallel and in close proximity to Alice
Walker Drive, named for the prize-winning
author and area native. While consisting of
largely black residences, both streets work to-
gether to create a spatial network of African-
American memory, connecting local and na-
tional history.
In conclusion, the dynamics behind com-
676
Volume 52, Number 4, November 2000
memorative street naming are similar to those
behind establishing and observing a holiday.
Holidays, like streets, extend into the lives and
geographies of people who may not identify
with the commemorated person (Gallagher
1995). Of course, because of racial and eco-
nomic segregation in cities, not all streets unite
diversity in the way described in the preceding
quotations. As suggested by many observers, it
is often difficult to name streets for King that
cut across and connect diverse elements of the
city. However, this statement gives us keen in-
sight into why African Americans in the South
and throughout the nation are choosing com-
memoration through street naming and, more
importantly, pushing for the naming of large,
prominent streets: it is the potential of streets,
through their location, to touch and connect
disparate social groups that makes naming so
controversial.
The National Distribution
of MLK Streets
One useful, yet largely unexplored, resource
for identifying street naming patterns is elec-
tronic telephone directories, which are avail-
able online as well as on CD-ROM (Alderman
and Good 1996). Using the 1996
PhoneDisc
PowerFinder
database of address records, a na-
tionwide search was conducted for streets
named in honor of Martin Luther King. As
listed in the
PhoneDisc
database, the names at-
tached to streets varied. In the majority of
cases, street addresses contained King’s full
name (Dr. Martin Luther King, Martin Luther
King, Jr., or Martin Luther King). However, a
significant number of streets were listed as sim-
ply having MLK and ML King in their names.
All conceivable name scenarios were explored.
In total, 483 towns/cities in the US were
found to have a named street as of 1996. Figure
2 shows the general location of these streets.
MLK streets appear most prevalent in the
southeastern US, particularly in the eastern
portion of Texas, along the Mississippi River,
along the Gulf region, and in what has been
termed the “Black Belt” regions of Georgia, Ala-
bama, and Mississippi. However, there are other
noteworthy concentrations in California, the
north central states of Michigan, Illinois, Indi-
ana, Ohio, and Kentucky, and the Middle Atlan-
tic States of New Jersey and Maryland. Naming
streets after King is evident across the nation
with the exceptions of parts of the New England
and West Mountain/Great Plains regions.
In 1996, sixty-seven percent of the nation’s
MLK streets were located in the six southern
states of Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Louisi-
ana, Florida, and Alabama. When the states of
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Tennessee, and Arkansas were included, the
South accounted for 77% of MLK streets. This
group of eleven southern states constitutes the
study area for this paper’s remaining analyses.
1
Georgia and Mississippi led the country with
72 and 65 MLK streets respectively in 1996.
When cities with MLK streets as a percentage
Figure 2:
Distribution of MLK streets in the US, 1996. Source: compiled by the author using
PhoneDisc
PowerFinder
(1996).
A Street Fit for a King
677
of total census-defined places are examined,
2
Mississippi leads the nation with the highest
rate of street naming (20% of places) followed
by Louisiana (13%), Georgia (12%), Alabama
(7.4%), Florida (6.2%), and Texas (4.2%). Sur-
prisingly, relative to other southern states, street
naming has a rather small presence in South
Carolina (3.2% of places), Arkansas (1.6%),
Tennessee (2.1%), North Carolina (2.8%), and
Virginia (1.4%). While MLK street naming is
pronounced in the South, the rate of the move-
ment is not consistently strong throughout the
entire region.
MLK Streets along the Southern
Urban Hierarchy
In order to examine how MLK street naming
might vary by city size within the South, place-
based population data were collected from the
1990 US Census for the eleven aforementioned
southern states. Figure 3 compares the per-
centage share of the region’s MLK streets
within certain population ranges to the per-
centage share of all places within these same
population ranges. When compared to the re-
gion’s overall urban hierarchy, MLK streets ap-
pear to be overrepresented in every population
category except the less than 2,500 people cat-
egory, which is the smallest population range.
More than 60% of southern cities with a MLK
street have populations of 9,999 or less. The
largest share of MLK streets (41%) is found in
places with populations ranging from 2,500 to
9,999. In fact, the median population size of
places with a street named after King is 4,909
for Alabama, 5,595 for Georgia, 5,526 for Lou-
isiana, and 4,570 for Mississippi. While MLK
streets are clearly underrepresented in the low-
est population size range, this should not ne-
gate the fact that 20% of all places with an MLK
street have populations of less than 2,500. This
underrepresentation may result from several
factors, ranging from low levels of political/
social power of African Americans at this spa-
tial scale to the fact that such places, because of
their small size, lack a large enough base of roads
from which to name or rename. In summary,
while MLK street naming is well represented
in larger cities, the toponymic practice is not
limited to these areas but is, in fact, a significant
part of the cultural landscapes of the nonmet-
ropolitan South.
MLK Streets and Relative Size of
African-American Population
If street naming is a movement led by African
Americans, we might expect to see a relation-
ship between the frequency of MLK streets
and the relative size of a city’s black population.
In order to understand the relationship be-
tween street naming and the relative size of a
city’s black population, data were collected on
the racial composition of places in the South
with an MLK street. The population of the av-
Figure 3:
Distribution of MLK streets in the South by city population size.
678
Volume 52, Number 4, November 2000
erage town/city in the eleven examined south-
ern states is almost 18% African-American. For
places with an MLK street in these same states,
the African-American population, on average,
constitutes about 39% of the local population.
Figure 4 examines more closely MLK street
naming as distributed among southern towns
with similar racial composition. There appears
to be an abundance of street naming in all
places except where African Americans are less
than 10% of the total population. MLK streets
are scarce (but still exist) in places in which less
than 1% of the population is black. More than
65% of MLK streets in the eleven southern
states are in cities where 10% to 49.9% of the
population is classified by the census as black.
When compared to the relative size of the
black population in all places, MLK street
naming appears to be most overrepresented in
places where the African-American population
is at least 30% of the total population.
The Intra-Urban Context
of MLK Streets
As established earlier, naming streets after King
often revolves around issues of intra-urban
location—that is, determining where King’s
memory is best situated or placed within the city’s
larger social and economic geography. Despite
the importance of these issues, two geographic
questions remain unanswered empirically. First,
are MLK streets generally located in poor,
African-American areas of the city, as suggested
by numerous journalists and activists? Second,
given the opposition that affected businesses of-
ten pose to street naming, what is the likelihood
of non-residential establishments having an ad-
dress identified with the civil rights leader?
The Residential Character of MLK Streets
The purpose of this section is to describe the
residential characteristics of areas on, and sur-
rounding, streets named after King. Specifi-
cally, I collected race and income related-data
from the 1990 US Census for census areas con-
taining MLK streets and then compared these
values with figures for their larger respective
cities. The
Tiger
/
Census Tract Street Index
(Ver.
2) was used to identify census tracts and block
numbering areas (BNAs) that contain a street
or portions of a street named after Martin
Luther King, Jr. Two hundred and twenty cen-
sus tracts and BNAs in 117 southern cities were
identified as containing a MLK street. These
census areas were unevenly distributed across
nine of the eleven southern states under exam-
ination. No named streets were found in the
database for Arkansas or Virginia.
The Tiger
/
Census Tract Street Index
provides census tract/
BNA information for more than 74 million in-
dividual residential addresses in 3,076 of the
3,141 US counties, representing roughly 70%
of all addresses in the country. Coverage within
counties ranges from as poor as 10% to better
than 90%. Street address information within
the digital index is accurate as of April 1, 1990,
which greatly limits our ability to locate and
identify the census tracts of more recently
named streets.
Table 1 summarizes the findings of the anal-
ysis. Overall, census areas with an MLK street
Figure 4:
Distribution of MLK streets in the South by relative size of city’s African-American population.
A Street Fit for a King
679
have a significantly larger proportion of Afri-
can Americans than we would expect from city
averages. Specifically, the average MLK census
tract/BNA is 65% African American, while the
city average is 28%. While this figure points to
the location of MLK streets in predominantly
African-American parts of the city, it really
masks the intensity of this pattern. For in-
stance, 198 (90%) of the 220 census tracts ex-
amined had a higher proportion of blacks than
their respective cities. Seventy-six (or 35%) of
examined census tracts had populations that
were 90% or greater African-American. In fact,
four census tracts reported as entirely (100%)
black. Nonetheless, MLK streets were located
in 67 census tracts/BNAs where whites were the
majority. This finding prompts us to consider
that, while MLK streets in the South are gener-
ally located in majority African-American areas
of the city (specifically, two-thirds of the time),
they are not completely removed from the white
community. However, because the coverage of
census tracts/BNA is much larger than one
street, this still does not disqualify the possibility
that the population on these specific streets is in-
deed largely, if not all, African-American. One
hundred percent of MLK census areas in North
Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee have
a larger proportion of African Americans than
their respective cities. Georgia follows with 97%.
The average total per capita income for an
MLK census tract is $7,999, which is signifi-
cantly lower than the average city per capita in-
come of $11,916. This would indicate that
MLK streets are located in generally poorer
areas of the city. Indeed, 173 (or 79%) of the
220 census tracts/BNAs examined had per cap-
ita incomes lower than their respective city’s
per capita income level. What is less clear from
Table 1 is the difference in per capita income
for blacks in MLK census areas as compared to
overall city averages. Per capita income for Af-
rican Americans living in census areas contain-
ing a street named after King is $6,214, slightly
lower than the average city per capita income
for blacks of $6,760. In the case of Alabama,
South Carolina, and Tennessee, per capita in-
come for African Americans in MLK census
areas is actually higher than citywide levels of
black income. While this evidence may suggest
little difference in the income of blacks whether
they live in a census tract/BNA with a MLK
street or not, it is important to keep in mind
that the majority (141 or 64%) of the examined
MLK census areas do have black per capita in-
comes lower than the income level of blacks
across their respective cities. In addition, 43 (or
30%) of those 141 census tracts/BNAs have
black per capita incomes that are at least $2,000
lower than the citywide figure for African
Americans. The hypothesis that MLK streets
are located in generally poorer areas of the city
is further substantiated by the marked differ-
ence in average per capita income for whites
living in MLK census tracts when compared to
the average citywide income level for whites.
Table 1
Comparison of Racial and Income Characteristics, MLK Census Areas vs. Respective Cities
STATE (Number of Census Tracts/BNAs Containing MLK Street)
AL
(18)
FL
(27)
GA
(35)
LA
(32)
MS
(17)
NC
(13)
SC
(4)
TN
(12)
TX
(62)
TOTAL
(220)
African-Americans as % of population
Average for MLK census areas 64 56 79 65 63 82 64 58 59 65
Average for respective cities 41 15 43 39 40 26 38 14 15 28
Percent of MLK census areas
.
city 83 89 97 88 82 100 100 100 87 90
Total per capita income
Average for MLK census areas 8,453 9,209 7,789 7,528 7,679 8,672 8,335 8,579 7,524 7,999
Average for respective cities 9,802 12,700 12,006 9,542 9,105 14,565 10,896 12,034 13,006 11,916
Percent of MLK census areas
,
city 72 78 86 59 53 92 50 83 92 79
Black per capita income
Average for MLK census areas 7,091 6,634 6,470 4,447 5,076 7,564 6,335 7,266 6,357 6,214
Average for respective cities 6,513 6,698 6,666 5,004 5,130 8,692 5,539 6,928 7,858 6,760
Percent of MLK census areas
,
city 44 63 60 72 47 69 0 42 81 64
White per capita income
Average for MLK census areas 11,517 9,978 9,415 12,112 11,292 12,674 11,958 9,139 8,187 10,072
Average for respective cities 12,935 14,789 20,757 14,489 13,822 18,793 16,113 13,657 16,342 16,124
Percent of MLK census areas
,
city
78
78
86
59
59
92
75
83
94
80
680
Volume 52, Number 4, November 2000
Overall, whites living in census areas with a
MLK street average a per capita income of
$10,072, which is higher than the per capita in-
come for blacks across the city and within
MLK census areas but lower than the average
city income for whites of $16,124. Specifically,
177 (80%) of census tracts/BNA have a per
capita income for whites lower than the white
income level for their respective city. Ironically,
at this level of analysis, MLK streets appear to
be associated more with lower incomes among
whites than among African Americans, which
may suggest a closer analysis of class dynamics
as they interact with race relations.
These findings should be approached with
caution. These census tract/BNA-level data are
not at the geographic level of the actual street,
and hence we risk false generalizations. Addi-
tionally, there is a certain amount of colinearity
in the variables examined here. Nevertheless, the
findings provide insight into the intra-urban
residential context of MLK streets, an insight
missing from previous studies and discussions.
The Nonresidential Character of MLK Streets
This section pursues a finer resolution of anal-
ysis and examines the frequency of nonresiden-
tial institutions found along MLK streets.
Using the 1996
PhoneDisc PowerFinder
database,
I determined the number of residences and busi-
nesses with an MLK address.
PhoneDisc
defines a
“business” broadly as any nonresidential enter-
prise, including traditional commercial en-
terprises, associations, schools, physicians, and
government organizations. As of 1996, there
were 3,564 businesses with MLK addresses in
the eleven southern states under examination.
However, these establishments were distrib-
uted across the region unevenly, with 1,598 (or
45%) concentrated in five Metropolitan Statis-
tical Areas: Tampa MSA (689), Atlanta MSA
(388), Dallas MSA (188), Houston MSA (168),
and Fort Myers MSA (165). The states of Flor-
ida and Texas alone accounted for 53% of the
South’s nonresidential MLK addresses found
in the database, although they claim only 27%
of the region’s named streets. In contrast, I
found no business addresses in 137 (or 38%) of
the 373 southern cities with a MLK street. One
hundred and sixty-one (or 43%) of cities in the
database had one to three businesses located on
these streets. Rather than being as frequent as
the number of 3,564 may suggest, the median
number of non-residential addresses per city
with a MLK street was two.
As a way of estimating the relative extent of
nonresidential development along named streets,
I calculated the ratio of residences versus busi-
nesses with an MLK address. For the nation as
a whole, in 1996, there were 2.1 times more
residences than businesses located on streets
named after King. Within the eleven southern
states under examination, the ratio increased to
2.4. Table 2 provides a state by state breakdown
of the residential to nonresidential ratio. Only
three southern states had MLK streets with a
ratio of residence to business smaller than the
national norm. Florida had the lowest ratio,
with 1.1 more residences with an MLK address
than businesses with one. Arkansas’s ratio was
the second smallest, although the state claimed
only 39 residences and 33 businesses located on
its eight MLK streets. MLK streets in Texas
were also very commercial in nature, with a
Table 2
Residence to Business Composition of MLK Streets and “Main” Streets, 1996
State
(# of Streets)
MLK Street Address “Main” Street Address
Residential Business Ratio Residential Business Ratio
Alabama (35) 811 149 5.4 6,356 3,828 1.7
Arkansas (8) 39 33 1.1 7,114 5,882 1.2
Florida (47) 1,057 935 1.1 8,827 5,418 1.6
Georgia (72) 1,742 744 2.3 7,457 6,524 1.1
Louisiana (51) 1,306 316 4.1 8,566 4,513 1.9
Mississippi (65) 1,299 208 6.2 5,155 3,958 1.3
N. Carolina (17) 480 129 3.7 17,202 13,606 1.3
S. Carolina (11) 74 11 6.7 9,117 9,107 1.0
Tennessee (8) 172 78 2.2 13,167 8,856 1.5
Texas (54) 1,664 958 1.7 25,426 23,739 1.1
Virginia (5) 17 3 5.6 11,967 11,102 1.1
Region
8,661
3,564
2.4
120,354
96,533
1.2
Source: Compiled by author from
PhoneDisc PowerFinder
(1996).
A Street Fit for a King
681
ratio of 1.7 to 1.0. Georgia and Tennessee had
ratios close to the regional norm, although
Georgia had far more named streets and busi-
nesses located on such streets. Six southern
states had ratios of residence to business larger
than the regional ratio of 2.4. South Carolina
had the largest, with 6.7 times more residences
located on MLK streets than businesses. How-
ever, South Carolina had only eleven named
streets, with 74 residences and eleven businesses
located on them. MLK streets in Mississippi, Al-
abama, and Virginia were much more residential
in nature than the national or regional norm,
with ratios of 6.2, 5.4, and 5.6 to 1.0 respectively.
Louisiana followed these states with 4.1 times
more residences than businesses, and North
Carolina with 3.7 times more residences than
businesses.
In order to provide a way of comparing the
commercial composition of MLK streets rela-
tive to another street found in many cities, I
calculated the ratio of residences to businesses
located on “Main” streets in each state, which is
also presented in Table 2. These streets, by
name, denote streets of central importance—
the notion of a “main” street is a central fixture
in American urban culture and society. In some
instances, however, a city’s main thoroughfare
is not literally “Main” Street but a street of some
other name, such as “Broad.” Nevertheless,
when compared to the stereotypical American
thoroughfare of “Main” Street, MLK streets
appear to be much more residential in nature.
For example, the ratio of residences to busi-
nesses on MLK streets in Alabama, Louisiana,
and Mississippi exceeded “Main” street ratios
of residences to businesses by as much as 3
times, 2 times, and 4 times respectively. The
exceptions appear to be Arkansas and Florida,
whose ratio of residences to businesses on MLK
streets was actually lower than the ratio for their
respective state’s “Main” streets. Overall, MLK
streets in southern states were twice as residen-
tial as those states’ “Main” streets, although
varying greatly from state to state. The similar-
ity (or dissimilarity) of MLK streets to “Main”
streets may be an indication of the relative
prominence or prestige of these named streets.
Concluding Remarks
African Americans— who are migrating back
to the South and are more likely to identify
themselves as southerners than in the past
(Cobb 1996)— are reshaping public represen-
tation of the region’s past and their relative im-
portance within that past. The commemora-
tion of Martin Luther King, Jr. plays a pivotal
role in the historical reconnection of black
southerners to the American South. While
fighting for such universal ideals as racial equal-
ity and social justice, the civil rights movement
was initially about establishing a more equita-
ble place for blacks within southern society. Al-
though eventually a figure of national and in-
ternational importance, King began his career
as a southern pastor and activist. As evident in
the words of Alice Walker, the civil rights
leader is remembered for helping black south-
erners restore their sense of place and identity:
“He (King) gave us back our heritage. He gave
us back our homeland, the bones and dust of
our ancestors. . . . He gave us continuity of place,
without which community is ephemeral. He
gave us home” (quoted in Cobb 1999, 129-30).
The naming of streets after Martin Luther
King is an important arena for African Ameri-
cans as they rewrite the landscape of southern
identity and commemoration. While less or-
nate and ostentatious than museums and mon-
uments, MLK streets are powerful and highly
contested cultural geographies because of their
potential to connect disparate communities
and incorporate a vision of the past into the
spatial practices of everyday life. They reveal
the importance of location, particularly intra-
urban location, to public commemoration. The
politics of commemorating King in the Ameri-
can South are not simply struggles over con-
vincing the public of his historical legitimacy.
3
Rather, street naming is about how collective
memories and representations of MLK are
constructed and realized through various geo-
graphic contexts. By establishing the unique
nature of street naming as a form of commem-
oration, I have hopefully provided the rationale
for more work, not only on the toponymic
commemoration of King, but also on other
street naming patterns that would otherwise
have been neglected.
MLK streets provide windows into, not only
the importance of the person being commemo-
rated, but also society’s relative progress in ful-
filling the civil rights leader’s “dream” of racial
equality and social integration. On the one
hand, these streets do reflect empowerment
682
Volume 52, Number 4, November 2000
among blacks. The presence of so many such
streets across the South’s urban hierarchy and
in places where blacks have a significant pres-
ence is perhaps evidence of this. However, as
poignantly pointed out in a recent newspaper
article evaluating named streets as symbols of
unity and equality, “[h]is [King’s name] is on
streets just about everywhere . . . everywhere
except the white part of town. . . . The geo-
graphical reality of King’s asphalt legacy is
more about boundaries than about bridges”
(Osinski 1999, A1). When one attempts to define
the intra-urban context of King’s commemora-
tion within several southern states, findings
suggest that MLK streets are located— whether
by choice or by force— in census areas that are
generally poorer and with more African Amer-
icans than citywide averages. However, income
levels for African Americans in MLK census
areas are not low across the board, prompting
us to reconsider the widely held belief that
named streets are in the most depressed parts
of southern cities and towns.
While MLK streets are less commercially
oriented than some may wish, they are not to-
tally devoid of business and other nonresiden-
tial enterprises. However, analysis did reveal
unevenness in the geographic frequency of
businesses with an MLK address. When com-
pared with the stereotypical American thor-
oughfare of “Main” Street, the address compo-
sition of MLK streets appear to be much more
residential in nature, although there is signifi-
cant state by state variation. Future work
should examine the type of enterprises and en-
trepreneurs identified with MLK streets in or-
der to fully measure the degree to which these
streets “bridge” different racial groups and eco-
nomic classes or simply reinforce traditional
social “boundaries.”
The findings presented here provide only a
general insight into the spatial extent and na-
ture of a new commemorative movement in the
American South. We will find the larger cul-
tural geography of MLK streets by recognizing
and exploring the diversity of named streets
and adopting a more critical framework. An
important barrier to developing a more critical
study of commemorative street naming, and
place naming overall, has been the scant atten-
tion given to the intra-urban locational con-
flicts that make up the toponymic process. A
focus on the locational politics of MLK street
naming would examine how named streets fit
into the material and symbolic geography of
their respective cities, how the street name’s lo-
cation is open to a number of different mean-
ings among the local population, and how local
political actors and groups struggle and negoti-
ate with each other over finding a street fit for
commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.
j
Notes
1
It is virtually impossible to devise a universally ac-
cepted definition of the South. These states were
chosen because of past association with the Confed-
eracy and the intense commemorative politics re-
sulting from this association and their role in the
early civil rights movement.
2
The Census Bureau recognizes two kinds of places:
incorporated places, and census-designated places
(CDPs), which are locally recognized settled popu-
lation centers by name.
3
In fact, a 1996
Southern Focus Poll
of 1,222 adults na-
tionwide showed that over 80% of southern respon-
dents said they admired MLK somewhat (
Southern
Focus Poll
1996).
Literature Cited
Aikens, Yvonne. 1990. King’s fight still in the streets:
Renaming of roads incites controversy.
St. Peters-
burg Times
, April 23:B1.
Alderman, Derek H. 1996. Creating a new geogra-
phy of memory in the South: (Re)naming of
streets in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
South-
eastern Geographer
36(1):51– 69.
Alderman, Derek H., and Robert M. Beavers. 1999.
Heart of Dixie revisited: An update on the geogra-
phy of naming in the American South.
Southeast-
ern Geographer
39(2):190– 205.
Alderman, Derek H., and Daniel B. Good. 1996.
Mapping the names of American businesses: A
teaching and software aid.
Journal of Geography
95(6):281– 6.
Alozie, Nicholas O. 1995. Political intolerance and
white opposition to a Martin Luther King holiday
in Arizona.
Social Science Journal
32(1):1– 16.
Armada, Bernard. 1998. Memorial agon: An inter-
pretive tour of the National Civil Rights Mu-
seum.
Southern Communication Journal
63(3):235
43.
Auchmutey, Jim. 1993. The Symbol war.
Atlanta
Journal-Constitution
, March 7:A1, A10.
Azaryahu, Maoz. 1996. The power of commemora-
tive street names.
Environment and Planning D:
Society and Space
14(3):311– 30.
———. 1997. German reunification and the politics
of street names: The case of East Berlin.
Political
Geography
16(6):479– 93.
A Street Fit for a King 683
Berg, Lawrence D., and Robin A. Kearns. 1996.
Naming as norming: “Race,” gender, and the
identity politics of naming places in Aotearoa/
New Zealand. Environment and Planning D: So-
ciety and Space 14(1):99–122.
Blackmon, Douglas. 1992. Malcolm X Blvd.: To be
or not to be? Atlanta Constitution, December 10:F1.
Bullard, Robert D., and Glenn S. Johnson, eds. 1997.
Just Transportation: Dismantling Race and Class Bar-
riers to Mobility. Stony Creek, CT: New Society
Publishers.
Charlesworth, Andrew. 1994. Contesting places of
memory: The case of Auschwitz. Environment and
Planning D: Society and Space 12(5):579– 93.
Chattanooga News-Free Press. 1981. Blacks “rename”
Ninth Street. April 19:A1.
Chattanooga Times. 1981a. Unity asked in street name
change. March 25:B1.
———. 1981b. City reverses, renames Ninth Street
for King. July 17:A1.
———. 1982. City pays tribute to M.L. King Jr.,
street dedicated. January 16:A1.
Chicago Defender. 1999. New Hampshire finally
passes MLK holiday. May 26:Sec. 1, page 4.
Cobb, James C. 1996. Community and identity: Re-
defining Southern culture. The Georgia Review
50(1):9– 24.
———. 1999. Redefining Southern Culture: Mind and
Identity in the Modern South. Athens: University of
Georgia Press.
Cohen, Saul B., and Nurit Kliot. 1992. Place-names
in Israel’s ideological struggle over the adminis-
tered territories. Annals of the Association of Ameri-
can Geographers 82(4):653– 80.
Davis, Townsend. 1998. Weary Feet, Rested Souls: A
Guided History of the Civil Rights Movement. New
York: W.W. Norton & Company.
The Economist. 1983. Honoured but still controver-
sial. October 22:23– 4.
Ensley, Gerald. 1999. Story of a street: How Talla-
hassee’s Boulevard Street became a tribute to the
dream. Tallahassee Democrat, January 17:1A, 8A.
Fyfe, Nicholas R., ed. 1998. Images of the Street: Plan-
ning, Identity, and Control in Public Space. New
York: Routledge.
Gallagher, Victoria J. 1995. Remembering together:
Rhetorical integration and the case of the Martin
Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Southern Communica-
tion Journal 60(2):109–19.
Gonzales Faraco, J. Carlos, and Michael D. Murphy.
1997. Street names and political regimes in an
Andalusian town. Ethnology 36(2):123– 48.
Herman, R.D.K. 1999. The Aloha state: Place
names and the anticonquest of Hawai’i. Annals
of the Association of American Geographers 89(1):76–
102.
Hopkins, Sam. 1989. Whites in Burke County win
fight over renaming road. Atlanta Constitution, Jan-
uary 13:A18.
Horswell, Cindy. 1993. Group debate effort to re-
name school for noted black educator. Houston
Chronicle, September 25:A30.
Jensen, Lynne. 1997. School name swap catches at-
tention. Times-Picayune, November 22:B3.
Johnson, Nuala C. 1994. Sculpting heroic histories:
Celebrating the centenary of the 1789 Rebellion
in Ireland. Transactions of the Institute of British Ge-
ographers 19(1):78– 93.
———. 1995. Cast in stone: Monuments, geography,
and nationalism. Environment and Planning D: So-
ciety and Space 13(1):51– 65.
———. 1999. Framing the past: Time, space, and the
politics of heritage tourism in Ireland. Political Ge-
ography 18(2):187– 207.
Leib, Jonathan. 1995. Heritage versus hate: A geo-
graphical analysis of Georgia’s Confederate flag
debate. Southeastern Geographer 35(2):37 –57.
Marshall, Jim. 1999. King road leads the way to
downtown Macon. Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
January 31:B6.
Mason, Julie. 1998. City Council won’t touch parade
feud. Houston Chronicle, January 7:15.
Myers, Garth A. 1996. Naming and placing the
other: Power and the urban landscape in Zanzibar.
Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie
87(3):237– 46.
Osinski, Bill. 1999. The many signs of MLK. Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, January 17:A1.
Page, Clarence. 1998. Sad turns but still hope for
King’s legacy. Houston Chronicle, January 15:28.
PhoneDisc PowerFinder. 1996. Produced by Digital
Directory Assistance, Inc.
Potholm, Erik D. 1993. Passing the King holiday in
Arizona. Campaigns and Elections 14(4):26– 7.
Rhea, Joseph T. 1997. Race Pride and the American Iden-
tity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sack, Kevin. 1996. Symbol of the Old South divides
the New South. New York Times, January 21:Sec. 4,
page 5.
Samuels, Alisa. 1996. Freetown street to be renamed
for Tubman. Baltimore Morning Sun, June 21:5B.
Secrest, David K., and A.L. May. 1989. Singing of
“Dixie” in Senate a “battle hymn” to angry blacks.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 28:C1.
Sigelman, Lee, and Barbara J. Walkosz. 1992. Letters
to the editor as public opinion thermometer: The
Martin Luther King Holiday vote in Arizona. So-
cial Science Quarterly 73(4):938– 46.
Southern Focus Poll. Fall 1996. Chapel Hill: Institute
for Research in Social Science, University of
North Carolina.
St. Petersburg Times. 1990. Controversy over renam-
ing streets shames communities. April 22:2.
Stump, Roger W. 1988. Toponymic commemoration
of national figures: The cases of Kennedy and
King. Names 36(3– 4):203–16.
Till, Karen. 1997. Place and the politics of memory:
Museums and memorials in Berlin. In Abstracts of
684
Volume 52, Number 4, November 2000
the Association of American Geographers 94th Annual
Meeting
,
Boston, MA
, 794. Washington, DC:
AAG.
Tiger
/
Census Tract Street Index
(Ver. 2). 1994. Wash-
ington DC: US Department of Commerce, Bu-
reau of the Census.
Towns, Hollis R. 1993. Back streets get King name.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
, September 12:Fl, F4.
Yarbrough, Brenda. 1992. Street honoring King
leads to city dump.
Atlanta Constitution
, October
30:A3.
Yardley, Jim. 1995. Boulevard of broken dreams.
At-
lanta Journal-Constitution
, January 4:A3.
Yeoh, Brenda S. 1996. Street naming and nation
building: Toponymic inscriptions of nationhood
in Singapore.
Area
28(3):298– 307.
Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1996. Social memories: Steps to a
sociology of the past.
Qualitative Sociology
19(3):
283– 99.
DEREK H. ALDERMAN (Ph.D., University of
Georgia) is Assistant Professor of Geography at East
Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858. His re-
search interests include the cultural geographies of
the American South, the politics of place naming,
and public commemoration.
... Dalam perjalanannya, pertukaran kekuasaan antara Orde Lama dan Orde Baru telah diperkuat melalui penanda kelaziman pemberian nama-nama Pahlawan Revolusi (seperti Jalan Jenderal Ahmad Yani, Jalan Gatot Subroto, dan Jalan Kapten Tendean) (Rachman, 1999). Alderman (2000) telah menyoroti isu-isu ketidakadilan sosial yang diwakilkan melalui praktik penamaan jalan. Di Amerika Serikat, terdapat nama Jalan Martin Luther King Jr., yang dalam analisisnya, Alderman dan Inwood (2018) menjelaskan bagaimana perjuangan kaum kulit hitam (African American) dalam menentang praktik diskriminasi berdasarkan pada rasial yang terjadi pada masa dahulu, dan mungkin masih bersisa hingga masa modern ini. ...
... Kuasa atas penggunaan suatu nama pada ruang publik merupakan bentuk hegemoni (Alderman, 2000). Sebuah lanskap menjadi penanda identitas dan peringatan atas kelompok atau komunitas mayoritas. ...
Book
Full-text available
Pada 2013 lalu, Pemerintah Daerah Yogyakarta mengubah tiga nama jalan, yaitu Jalan Pangurakan (d.h Jalan Trikora), Jalan Margo Mulyo (d.h Jalan Ahmad Yani), dan Jalan Margo Utomo (d.h Jalan Pangeran Mangkubumi). Nama jalan yang baru memuat nilai asli, kesejarahan, budaya, dan filosofi yang notabene perlu direvitalisasi dan dilestarikan. Pengubahan ini merupakan salah satu realisasi atas rencana menjadikan Yogyakarta sebagai Kota Filosofi dan Kota Warisan Dunia menurut UNESCO. Penelitian ini bertujuan menggali makna dan pemaknaan oleh masyarakat terhadap nama jalan yang diubah tersebut. Sumber data penelitian berasal dari informasi informan 22 orang masyarakat dan narasumber yang berlatar budayawan, sejarawan, dan pemerintah. Selain itu, peneliti juga mengumpulkan foto penggunaan nama jalan dan sejumlah peta klasik hingga modern. Melalui metodologi kualitatif, peneliti mengolah data menggunakan pendekatan sosio-onomastik (Lanskap Linguistik, Kelekatan Toponimik, dan Onomastik Setempat). Hasilnya, nama jalan yang diubah tidak hanya mengandung makna dasar tetapi juga mengandung makna filosofi. Nama-nama jalan yang diteliti dimaknai secara beragam oleh masyarakatnya. Pemaknaan ini berkaitan dengan sikap, persepsi, dan preferensi mereka terhadap nama jalan dan pengubahannya. Dengan merujuk pada hasil penelitian ini, pengubahan nama jalan dapat berdampak pada banyak hal jika tidak dipersiapkan dengan paripurna.
... Such traditions demand martyrs or heroes like Lee, and many emerged in the South as the Lost Cause took root. This process of transformation, dubbed "reputational politics" by Derek Alderman (2000Alderman ( , 2002Alderman ( , 2003 in his studies of Martin Luther King, Jr., often involves heated partisan debates extending over years or decades. In the postbellum period, the reputations of northern and southern Civil War leaders changed through time, sometimes substantially. ...
Article
The U.S. is currently experiencing an unparalleled transformation of its commemorative landscapes. Statues and memorials that have stood for decades are being removed. In particular, memorials associated with the Confederacy from the American Civil War are being addressed. The case of commemoration of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, offers a unique perspective on the difficulties of untangling the many legacies of the Civil War that are commemorated in the American landscape. Lee was a graduate of the Academy, a Superintendent, and had a distinguished career as an Army officer, before joining the Confederacy. He became its most prominent and honored General. The evolution of Lee’s landscape commemoration at West Point parallels significant historical events in American society and within the Army over more than 150 years. An examination of this evolution in a broader geographical and historical context is warranted.
... The critical toponymies literature has analysed how naming is imbricated in the relationship between politics, power and place (e.g., Alderman, 2000Alderman, , 2003Azaryahu, 1996;Hui, 2019;Marin, 2012;Rose-Redwood, 2008a;Yeoh, 1992Yeoh, , 1996. As Berg and Kearns (1996) argued, place naming is part of the social construction and contestation of place and part of the production and reproduction of the symbolic and material order, a way of 'norming' or legitimating hegemonic power relations. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper advances theoretical developments in critical toponymies through focusing on the renaming of South China Sea Islands and everyday use of names by fishermen in Hainan, China. Undergoing a series of historical renamings associated with European colonial influences and claims of sovereignty by the Chinese state, multiple official and vernacular toponymic systems co-exist and operate in complex ways in everyday life. By focusing on complexities in the everyday usage of these co-existing toponymic systems, this paper develops calls in the literature to engage with a more complex understanding of the operation of power in naming beyond a focus on a power/resistance dichotomy. Whilst acknowledging the role of political power, it develops this by analysing how renaming is also influenced by social and demographic change, developments in other areas such as heritage, and technological changes, which have received scant attention in the critical toponymies literature. The paper explores the naming of oceanic features to shift the focus of analysis away from the literature’s concentration on cities and street names. Overall, the paper argues for a more nuanced and diversified approach to analyzing critical toponymies.
... Yeoh 1992, Palonen 1993, Myers 1996. Od tego czasu krytyczne studia nad toponimią miast całego świata zyskały na popularności, przynosząc liczne i niezwykle ciekawe opracowania, których bogactwo i mnogość wniosków nie sposób tutaj omówić (warto wymienić te najważniejsze: Alderman 2000Alderman , 2003Light 2004;Berg, Vuolteenaho 2009;Rose-Redwood i in. 2010, 2017aLight i Young 2015). ...
Article
Full-text available
The article addresses the topic of street names in 10 Polish small cities, examined from the perspective of critical geography, and geography of social justice in particular – two disciplines that have so far been underrepresented in Polish geography. The studied hodonyms were analysed in the context of gender disproportions in streets named after individuals. In all towns, the toponymic landscape is dominated by male names, whose advantage over female names is significant, which confirms the thesis about naming patriarchy in Polish cities. Arguments for the urgent need to introduce changes in the current toponymic landscape were also presented in the text, along with the proposal of two new terms referring to the geographical names commemorating women – feminonyms and men – masculinonyms.
... Yer isimleri geçmişteki coğrafi çevrenin ve coğrafi çevredeki değişimin en önemli kanıtlarındandır (Tunçel, 2000). Yer isimleri siyasi ve sosyal kimlik üzerinde baskı kurarak yerini sağlamlaştırır (Alderman, 2000). Yer isimlerinin değişmesi bazen siyasal olguların en temel göstergelerindendir (Kara, 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
z Şehirler çağın ihtiyaçlarına cevap verebilmek için kendi kendini yeni-leyen dinamik bir yapıya sahiptirler. Hızlı şehirsel değişim yeni şehirsel formların ortaya çıkmasına neden olmaktadır. Bu formlardan biri de şehirle-rin önemli bileşeni olan cadde ve sokaklardır. 20.yüzyılın sonlarına doğru büyüyen şehirlerde cadde sokak sayıları da artmıştır. Şehirsel kimlik için bu derece önem arz eden cadde ve bulvarlar ad verme konusunda en çok etkile-nen ve gözde olan mekânlardır. Cadde ve bulvarlar şehirlerin yaşayan hafıza unsurlarıdır. Bu çalışmada cadde ve bulvarlar toponomi bilimi açısından in-celenmiştir. Çalışmada temel başvuru kaynağı Bandırma Belediyesi, mahalle muhtarları, meclis kararları ve şehir planı olmuştur. Belediye tarafından yılla-ra göre basılmış şehir rehberleri ve diğer kitaplarda incelenmiştir. Vatan top-raklarını kanıyla sulayan şehitler de unutulmamış, çok sayıda caddeye isim vermişlerdir. Bandırma'nın omurgasını oluşturan ana arterlerde kurtuluş sava-şının izlerinin yaşatıldığı, özellikle cumhuriyet caddelerinin (Cumhuriyet Meydanı, Atatürk Caddesi ve İsmet İnönü Caddesi) aktif olduğu görülmekte-dir. Bu caddeler şehrin tarihi tüpleridir. Bu bağlamda Bandırma'nın bir cum-huriyet şehri olduğu ortaya çıkmıştır. Bunun yanında hem ulusal anlamda hem de yerel anlamda ülkeye mal olmuş kişi isimlerine rastlanmaktadır. Be-şeri ve fiziki unsurların etkisiyle yer-yön belirten caddeler de sayıca fazladır.
... (2021) haberine göre, GAP Bölgesi Turizm Tanıtım ve Markalaşma Projesi kapsamında konuşan Kültür ve Turizm Bakanı Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, bu çevrede 11 tane daha tepe olduğu için buranın artık dünyaya 12 tepe olarak sunulacağını belirtmiştir. FakatAlderman (2000)'nın da belirttiği taşırdık. Çoğu kadın da ağaca çaput bağlamakla kalmaz bir de üzerinden yırttığı çaputu toprağa gömerdi ki duası çabuk karşılık olsun. ...
Article
Full-text available
Dünyanın en eski inanç merkezi olan Göbekli Tepe’nin keşfi sonrasında mekânsal olarak yeniden üretilmesi, bir taraftan Göbekli Tepe’yi popüler hale getirirken, diğer taraftan Göbekli Tepe’ye kutsal bir yer olarak saygı duyan insanların bu yerle olan bağlarının kopması suretiyle yerel halkı “öteki”leştirmiştir. Ötekileş(tiril)en yerel halkın atalarından miras kalan inancın, ritüellerin ve kültürün kesintiye uğraması, hatta yok olma tehlikesi önemli bir sorundur. Bu çalışmanın amacı, Göbekli Tepe’yi arkeolojik boyutundan farklı olarak burada yaşayan halkın bir “yer” olarak Göbekli Tepe ile olan sosyomekansal ilişkisini anlamaya çalışmaktır. Çalışmada nitel araştırma yöntemi kullanılmış olup, araştırma kapsamında Göbekli Tepe çevresindeki altı köyde yaşayan 20 katılımcı ile görüşmeler yapılmıştır. Görüşmeler sonucunda elde edilen bulgulara göre; keşif sonrasında yerel halkın bir yer olarak anlam yükledikleri Göbekli Tepe ile olan bağı koparılmış ve yeniden üretilen Göbekli Tepe, bölge insanının yabancı kaldığı bir müşterek mekân haline dönüşmüştür. Göbekli Tepe’nin bir meta olarak görsel tüketime dayanan turistik bir merkeze dönüştürülmesi yoluyla ülke içinden ve dışından birçok insanın buraya gelmesi sağlanırken, yıllardır bu yerin gerçek sahipleri olan yerel halkın ötekileş(tiril)erek bu yerle bağlarının koparılması önemli bir tartışma konusudur. 1
Chapter
Full-text available
This paper explores factors that gave rise to a masculinised street naming system in Salisbury Central Business District (CBD), Rhodesia. Naming is a socially regulated process, one that is influenced by realities in the society that gives rise to the names. The study hypothesises that the street-naming system in Salisbury CBD was conditioned by the cult of domesticity, colonial discourse of othering, imperial men's association with origin, and eroticisation of the landscape. This study focuses on street names because they introduce political ideologies into everyday contexts of human interaction. Street names in the Salisbury CBD had more political significance than those on the outskirts of the city. Gender, alongside race and class, can condition the way space is experienced and interpreted. This study established that the place-naming system in Salisbury CBD, the Capital of Rhodesia, largely honoured white men. Only female members of the British monarchy were visible in the cultural geography in Salisbury CBD. Using hegemonic masculinity as a conceptual framework, this paper examines factors that led to the conspicuous absence of white women from the streetscapes in Salisbury CBD.
Article
The “Grey Street Casbah and surrounding” is a closed Facebook group about the historically “Indian” neighborhood in downtown Durban, South Africa. It creates an informal archival repository and provides a new space to reify contemporary understandings of historical places within the Durban Central Business District. The informal nature of this space allows the layperson the ability to participate in historical inquiry and exhibits the diverse ways places in Durban are remembered and memorialized. In this paper, I argue the wealth of knowledge generated on informal online platforms, such as this Facebook group, should influence and inform historical interpretations of our urban pasts.
Article
Over the past 2 decades, the critical toponymy literature reached a certain level, both qualitatively and quantitatively, that it is now both possible and necessary to subject the field itself to a critical evaluation. This study aims to make such a critical inquiry by arguing that although there has been important progress in critical toponymy studies, the field still has a tendency to approach place names on the basis of a hierarchy between ‘powerful hegemonic groups’ that control the official naming institutions and ‘weak masses’ who use place names in their everyday lives. This tendency, in turn, limits the critical toponymists by not allowing them to conceive what lies beyond the rejection and acceptance of hegemonic power. Although this article does not propose a clear-cut solution to this problem, it assumes that critical toponymists may learn from Roland Barthes who attempted to solve similar problems in literature by declaring the death of the author and the birth of the reader.
Article
Full-text available
The installation of each of the three socially transformative regimes of twentieth-century Spain (the Second Republic, the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and the restoration of democracy following his death) has been marked by sweeping changes in the street names of the Andalusian town of Almonte. This paper considers how the content of these toponymic changes reflects the goals, tactics, ideology, and ethos of each successive regime as it stipulated a new relationship between the inhabitants and those who govern them; the Second Republic used street names to advance its educational agenda, the dictatorship deployed toponyms to threaten the townspeople, and the socialist democracy fashioned a crafty symbolic compromise aimed at ending the onomastic cycle of victors and vanquished.
Article
Full-text available
This research revisits and updates John Shelton Reed's "Heart of Dixie," a classic in the fields of cultural geography and southern studies. Reed mapped the perceptual or vernacular boundaries of the American South by examining the naming patterns of businesses and organizations listed in metropolitan telephone directories. First published in 1976, his study identified a strong southeastern regional pattern in the ratio of nonresidential establishments that used the word "Dixie" in their name versus those using the label "American." Later, in a 1990 update, Reed and colleagues found a dramatic shrinkage in the core area of Dixie naming, which they attributed to the waning of sectional feelings among southerners. We revisit this seminal study in light of recent struggles over identity in the American South, particularly between Black and White southerners, and recent changes in the region's place-name landscape. Three new trends are observable within the South's geography of naming: de-Confederatization, African Americanization, and re-Confederatization. We replicated Reed's methodology and generated an updated rendering of the "Heart of Dixie" using current data collected from the Internet, revealing a de-Confederatization in the naming of businesses and organizations (although wholesale, regionwide declines in references to Dixie—both in absolute and relative terms—are not evident). In addition to remapping the boundaries of Dixie as Reed defined it, we suggest that the study of southern naming should go beyond simply analyzing geographic patterns and move toward an investigation of the "politics of naming." Such an approach involves examining the social and political relations that underlie naming as people attempt to redefine and reclaim the region symbolically.
Article
Full-text available
The (re)naming of streets in honor of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is quickly becoming a common yet controversial feature on the southern urban landscape. This new trend in place-naming reflects efforts by African Americans to create a new geography of memory in a region where much of its landscape has long been used and reserved for remembering (and memorializing) primarily white-controlled and dominated conceptions of the past. This paper articulates a theoretical framework for understanding the struggles that local African-American communities face in the street-(re)naming process. The controversy surrounding MLK street (re)naming can be analyzed in relation to three interrelated struggles: (1) the politics of place-naming, the struggle of African Americans to inscribe their ideological values and aspirations about race relations into the symbolism of place-names; (2) the politics of memory, the struggle of African Americans to reconstruct the region's collective memory of the past through commemoration; and (3) the politics of space and scale, the struggle of African Americans to engage in commemoration of King as it is affected by the long-standing authority of whites to control the scale of black expression and mobilization, black attitudes toward space, and the politics of designing the city. This paper attempts to build a greater understanding of how geography constitutes and structures the production of memory within society.
Article
Full-text available
Street names are ostensibly visible, quintessentially mundane, and seemingly obvious. This might be the reason why social scientists have hardly addressed the issue of street names in their studies of the structures of authority and the legitimation of power. In this paper the author explores the semiotic and political operation of commemorative street names. He sheds light on the procedures of the naming and the renaming of streets and the utilization of street names for commemorative purposes as a fundamental feature of modern political culture. Further, he elaborates on how street names, in addition to their fundamental role in the spatial organization and semiotic construction of the city, are also participants in the cultural production of shared past. In addition, the author uncovers commemorative street names as a powerful mechanism for the legitimation of the sociopolitical order. Commemorative street names provide for the intersection of hegemonic ideological structures with the spatial practices of everyday life. Therefore they are instrumental in rendering natural the official version of history which they incorporate into the urban setting. The author concludes that the power of (commemorative) street names stems from their ability to implicate the national narrative of the past, though in a fragmented manner, in numerous narratives of the city.
Article
A debate has grown throughout the southeastern United States in the 1990s over the use of Confederate symbols. In Georgia, a vociferous fight took place in 1993 regarding a proposal to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag. The flag issue is divisive because there is no one accepted meaning attached to the symbolism embodied in the Confederate battle emblem. This paper examines the flag debate in Georgia and concludes that (1) the Georgia state flag is an example of an icon that acts as a centrifugal force splitting apart the state's population rather than acting as a centripetal force, and (2) support for the current state flag is concentrated in white-majority legislative districts in the rural parts of the state and the suburbs surrounding Georgia's largest cities.
Book
This book reveals the distribution of transportation benefits to the wealthy and educated to be disproportionately high compared to people of colour and those at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. Essays by a wide range of environmental and transportation activists, lawyers, and scholars trace the historical roots of transportation struggles in United States civil rights history from Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders to modern-day unjust transportation equity are examined, as well as the impact of transportation policy on inner city environments
Article
This essay explores the extent to which memorials that are connected with issues of national conflict can lead to the construction of shared memories or fictions of the past. In contrast to recent critical analyses that have focused on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, this study analyzes a Civil‐Bights related memorial—the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Atlanta—through the development and application of the concept of “rhetorical integration.” The findings demonstrate that even though rhetorical integration is elusive, memorials can, through aspects of form, function, symbolism and location, provide space, motivation and inventional resources for continued engagement.
Article
Abstract This paper deals with the symbolic role of place-names as expressions of ideological values. Names are symbolic elements of landscape that reflect abstract or concrete national and local sentiments and goals. In the case of Israel, the selection of place-names has become a powerful tool for reinforcing competing national Zionist ideologies. Implicit in this competition are two major Israeli place-name themes: the message of essentialism or continuity, and epochalism or change. Essentialism is expressed in Hebrew placenames and in a variety of other symbols that project Israel as the sole heir to the Holy Land. In this context, Biblical and Talmudic place-names are reintroduced or reinforce the bonds between the Jewish community in Israel and the land, as emphasized by the Likud party when in power, in alliance with the orthodox religious wing and nationalist parties of the extreme right. Epochalism is expressed through place-names that reflect modern Zionist settlement values and military heroes, or the renewed interaction of Jews with their land through identification with nature. This was the approach of the founders of the State of Israel; it continued while the Labor party was in power, and is likely to be reintroduced with Labor's return to power. We explore the process of naming places as a mechanism for landscape transformation in the territories captured by Israel in the Six Days War of 1967—the Golan, Gaza, and the West Bank. In these regions, the conflict between Jewish and Palestinian/Arab national symbols is most prominent, and the differences within the two Zionist camps over the future relationship of the Territories to the State of Israel are most pronounced.