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At Thursday night’s special City Council meeting, the Jackson City Council unanimously approved a resolution to rename Francis Street, from Cooper Street to South Street, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The street will soon be known as Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
A portion of Francis Street was already named in honor of King, but the City Council made the name official for the entirety of the street in the city limits. Francis Street in Summit Township is not impacted by this name change. Records show that Francis Street was named for a son of Horace Blackman, who founded the settlement that later became the City of Jackson. The Engineering Department says the name change will require the City to replace 36 street signs at an estimated cost of $4,500.
With a unanimous vote, every councilmember spoke positively about the name change at the meeting. First Ward Councilmember Arlene Robinson says local African American leaders have been fighting for this change for decades. She hopes the name change will spur further investment along Francis Street in the First Ward, which is a predominantly African American neighborhood. “Hopefully it will bring some pride into our neighborhood. We have something that we fought for. It’s the beginning of the change that I am looking for,” Robinson said. Third Ward Councilmember Jeromy Alexander says while he understands the concerns some may have about what this will cost the City, residents, and businesses, the time to act is now. “I have seen the immense value of patient and persistent pleas. This has been 50 years. I am glad to be here tonight to see it happen,” Alexander said.
Mayor Derek Dobies says he hopes this name change sends a strong signal to the community. “I think it sends a clear message to those who practice hate, bigotry and discrimination that we are a City that values inclusiveness and tolerance. We see diversity as a strength. This vote means to me that we’re better than the hate that we see, and we can make a difference,” Dobies said.
The next step is for the City to create a plan for transitioning to the new name, which is expected to take several months.