Signs for ANC Williams Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue have been placed along the former 3rd Avenue extension near Bicentennial Park. The move comes after the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the renaming May 11.
“We’ve gathered together today to name two streets for two people who’ve made such a difference for so many lives in our community: one, a local, and the other, an international figure,” Franklin Mayor Ken Moore said during the event.
The first roadway was named for Allen Nelson Crutcher "ANC" Williams, a former slave who went on to become the first Black business owner in Franklin in the 1860s. Williams was also a leader in the Natchez Street community and owned properties in the “Hard Bargain” neighborhood before his death in 1930, according to the city.
“Today, I see a lot of love,” Williams’ great-granddaughter Cassandra Taylor said. “I see a lot of diversity. My father, Fred Williams, who I’m sure a lot of you knew, he would be so proud.”
The second roadway is named for civil rights leader King, who was killed in Memphis in 1968. Moore said while King never visited Franklin to his knowledge, he remains an important figure in Black history. Additionally, the roadway leads to the Toussaint L'Ouverture Cemetery, where many Black leaders and residents are buried. More than 900 streets worldwide have been named in his honor, including nine in Tennessee.
“Even though he didn’t visit Franklin, his influence was just as great as Mr. Williams, who lived here, worked here and died here,” Moore said. "I encourage us to continue to work together to build harmony in our community and to know who our neighbors are and be a community where all citizens have the same opportunities for a great place to live, a great place to work, a great place to raise a family and a great place to play.”
The two roadways connect and lead to the Hill Property, which is slated to become affordable housing in the future, according to the city. Local historian and author Thelma Battle spoke during the ceremony about the significance of the new road names as well as the importance of recognizing the area’s Black history and passing it along to future generations.
“[This roadway] is a gateway to progress,” Battle said. “That road up there will lead to young people discovering the history that they need to know of this county and the African American people who worked hard, thrived and died here.”