New Orleans city council has voted unanimously to officially change the name of a boulevard named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
It will now be called Allen Toussaint Boulevard.
The change honours the late R&B icon and his contribution to music in New Orleans for more than half a century.
The city has also renamed two other streets as part of an effort to disconnect the streetscape of New Orleans from segregationist figures and white supremacists in the wake of the George Floyd protests in 2020. Those streets will be named after jazz trumpeter Henry James “Red” Allen and activist Joseph Guillaume, replacing the names of a Confederate ambassador and a segregationist mayor.
Allen Toussaint was a prominent figure in New Orleans R&B, soul and funk as a songwriter, arranger, and producer for hundreds of recordings from the 1950s into the early 21st century. Throughout his career, Toussaint wrote and produced for many artists such as The Meters, Etta James, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney and Wings. Notable compositions wrote include the hits Get Out of My Life, Woman, Ride Your Pony, Fortune Teller, Ruler of My Heart and Southern Nights.
In the last decade of his life, Toussaint lived on the street formerly known as Robert E. Lee Boulevard until he passed away while touring Madrid in 2015.
“In a city where we have so much to celebrate, and many incredible residents to honour, I feel — and I know many people feel — that symbols of hate should not be celebrated,” said council member Jared Brossett, who sponsored the Toussaint name change. “Allen Toussaint, of course, is a native of New Orleans and a world-renowned musician, and I believe he is incredibly deserving of this honour.”
However, the decision was not made easily. Last year, Toussaint’s son had rejected a proposal that would only rename the section of the street located in the racially diverse Gentilly neighbourhood, and not in the predominantly white Lakeview area as well.
“That would be disrespectful to the legacy of Mr. Toussaint. The entire street should be named in his honour,” Reginald Toussaint said then.
Last month, the planning commission ruled to change the name of the entire four-mile boulevard.
The new street names will come into effect on Feb. 1.