By Ashley Benkarski
MURFREESBORO, TN — A crowd of more than 100 people watched as City administrators and elected officials unveiled new signage to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. at Patterson Park Community Center on Saturday.
Patterson Park is the destination for the City’s MLK Jr. Day March and will have its address on Mercury Blvd. renamed.
The Commission’s authorization renames the two-mile stretch of Mercury from Southeast Broad Street to South Rutherford Boulevard.
DeShawn Rogers read Dr. King’s “How Long” speech and Councilman Kirt Wade, who spearheaded the project, shared his experience and acknowledged those who helped make it happen, including the family of the late Tommy Vaughn, a City spokesperson said.
Additionally the City’s Transportation and Engineering Departments are conducting sidewalk construction from Southeast Broad Street to Middle Tennessee Boulevard, with final installation of the signage tentatively scheduled for Oct. 13.
The system includes ADA compliant pedestrian crosswalks, crossing push buttons, pedestrian signals and marked sidewalks.
The Planning Commission voted in May to rename Mercury Boulevard in honor of the slain Civil Rights leader. “The renaming of Mercury Boulevard to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. recognizes the national contributions of the slain civil rights leader in advocating racial equity through non-violence in the 1960s and reflects the commitment of the City to embracing diversity within the community,” a city spokesman said.
The surrounding area is historically significant to the African American community, peppered with homages to the Confederacy.
Yet so many sites that tell of its injustice go unmarked and invisible—Evergreen Cemetery’s Section M and a former slave auction market within the direct eyesight of the Johnny Reb statue come to mind.
Local historian Bill Carey appeared on WMOT 89.5 in 2018 to discuss his book with Roots Radio host Jessie Scott in which he recounts a man’s testimony of witnessing the pain of forced separation between a man and wife being auctioned on Murfreesboro’s town square.
“Slavery was embedded in every level. Every newspaper was in on slavery. Every bank was in on slavery. Almost every factory apparently hired slaves to build what they built in factories. Every railroad hired slaves,” Carey wrote in his book documenting the activity of the slave trade titled “Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls: A History of Slavery in Tennessee.”
If Nathan Bedford Forrest can have a sign marking the spot where he rested along his campaign against the Union to protect the institution of slavery, surely the victims of this horrifying legacy should be treated the same.