It’s possible now to drive the length of Davenport’s Marquette Street and be constantly reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.
The city placed its final two street designation signs to honor the slain civil rights leader Tuesday, on the 49th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“It’s great the city has embraced a man like King, to honor him with the designation of a street and signs at every intersection,” Thomas Mason, a member of the St. Ambrose University alumni board, said.
A collaborative effort by the city, church leaders and residents designated the street in King’s honor in 2001. At the time, nine signs were purchased through the efforts of the Rev. Rogers Kirk of Third Missionary Baptist Church, Davenport, and the Emerging Black Professionals of the Quad-Cities.
In 2010, the St. Ambrose University Diversity Work Group, of which Mason is a member, raised $2,200 for the additional 46 signs.
“It’s a visible reminder that this gentleman galvanized people to care,” Tim Phillips, St. Ambrose’s dean of students, said. “King and his work and legacy are as relevant today as they ever have been.”
Davenport Alderman Ray Ambrose, whose 4th Ward includes Marquette Street, said the city and religious leaders selected Marquette because of the number of places of worship and schools along the street.
“Marquette is a good location for this designation,” Ambrose said.
Fifty-five signs are posted at every intersection along Marquette from the Mississippi riverfront at Centennial Parkway’s Beiderbecke Drive to West 62nd Street, where Marquette ends at a cornfield.
Marquette is broken up at one point, stopping at West 46th Street and starting again at Northwest Boulevard. It passes through mostly residential areas of Davenport, with occasional business districts near downtown and Locust Street.
Some of the signs include a picture of King.
Although designated in honor of King, the street still is named for Jacques Marquette, one of the first to explore the Upper Mississippi River.
As of 2010, a total of 893 cities and towns in the United States had renamed a street for King, Derek Alderman, a professor of geography at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, said Tuesday. He expects the number to be more than 900 now.
The number does not include communities, including Davenport, that designated a street in King’s honor while keeping the old name.
“More and more cities, due to costs or controversy, are pursuing honorific designations rather than changing names and addresses,” Alderman said.
Alderman, who did his graduate dissertation on the topic, posts his research at mlkstreet.com. His research shows most of the renamings occurred in Southern states.
As of 2010, a total of 10 states still did not have a street renamed for King.
“There’s still a debate over who counts in American history,” Alderman said. “Street names are pretty powerful symbols.”