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St. Louis’ international sister cities remember Martin Luther King

A bust of Martin Luther King sits in the Lyon square, where he spoke 52 years ago.
Lyon Municipal Library

Fifty years ago, the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis sparked grief and protests across the United States.

British newspaper the Guardian wrote two days after his death on April 4, 1968, that the world looked on in shock. “With his assassination,” it wrote, “America has moved one step nearer to chaos, and one step farther from community.”

The United States celebrates the Martin Luther King Jr. Day, observed around his birthday. But King’s legacy is also commemorated by street names, statues and exhibits around the world.

St. Louis has 15 sister cities around the world with which it partners to solve community issues and exchange culture. Two of those cities remember King in their own ways: Bologna, Italy, has named a street in his honor, and Lyon, France, dedicated a bust and a museum exhibit to his visit to their town.

Bologna, Italy

Worldwide, more than 1,000 roadways honor King. It’s hard to find a major city that doesn’t have a street named after King in the United States, including St. Louis, but fewer exist internationally.

Italy has dozens. One of those roads is in St. Louis sister city Bologna: Via Martin Luther King. It’s a small street, lined with apartment buildings near a shopping mall. Explore your way down it with Google Street View below.

(You can explore other roads named for King across the world on National Geographic’s website.)

Lyon, France

King toured Europe multiple times, addressing crowds in Germany, France and other countries. In March 1966, he visited the town of Lyon, France. There, he reflected on racial discrimination in the United States, thanked France for its financial support of anti-discrimination efforts and discussed working toward a unified world. 

In 2009 on the anniversary of King’s assassination, Lyon’s mayor dedicated a wooded space to King in Le Parc de la Tete d’Or, an urban park that claims to be the largest in France. And in 2011, the city inaugurated a bust in Place Eugène Varlin, a square where he spoke in the ’60s.

To remember the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, Lyon’s public library has set up an exposition called “Martin Luther King, Le Rêve Brisé?” or “Martin Luther King, The Broken Dream,” that explores civil rights history, King’s life and work, and his trip to Lyon. The exhibit features concerts and discussions on fictional and photographic representations of black culture and today’s civil rights activists.

Follow Kae on Twitter: @kmaepetrin

Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.

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