A Nashville neighborhood is debating the practicality of a street name change that would honor a Civil Rights icon. After hearing from residents, councilmembers on Tuesday shortened the boundaries of where the name change would occur.
It would now stop at Jefferson Street and will no longer impact Germantown residents.
Some councilmembers and community leaders wanted to rename Fifth Avenue to “Rep. John Lewis Way,” from the street’s north end in Salemtown through downtown to the Nashville City Cemetery.
But some white Germantown residents opposed the street name change, saying the city should look for other ways to honor Lewis because it’s a hassle to change their addresses.
At a recent meeting with local councilmembers, resident Anne Harrison said it unfairly leaves her neighbors with only two options: “We either have to agree that we want our home addresses changed and we’re fine with that,” she said, “or somehow we’re not in support of Rep. John Lewis, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Some residents also noted that councilmembers consulted businesses prior to getting resident input, which made them feel the passage was inevitable.
The name change wouldn’t take effect until next year, and the U.S. Postal Service would continue forwarding residents their mail and property owners wouldn’t have to update their deeds since it relies on map and parcels as identifiers.
Other residents say it’s not a big deal to change their address. From the Woolworth building, where Lewis demonstrated against segregation at lunch counters, to the Ryman Auditorium, where he received an award from Dr. Martin Luther King, supporters of the change say Fifth Avenue is a trail down the city’s Civil Rights history.
“Changing an address is not complicated. It is an insult and a showcase of complete entitlement and lack of empathy, social concern for those that express discontent over a minor inconvenience. We need to honor Rep. Lewis’ legacy, as well as others, who have led the way towards social justice,” resident LaDonna Boyd said during a recent community meeting.
Update: This story was updated Tuesday night to include the Metro Council’s latest action, which redefined the scope of the renaming to exclude Germantown.
Clarification: This story has been clarified to include where the public comments were made and that residents had noted businesses were consulted before resident input.