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Boulevard in New Orleans will be renamed for music legend Allen Toussaint

A Black man in a sky blue suit plays piano.
Justin Steyer
Allen Toussaint at KNKX in 2011

Last week, the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to rename Robert E. Lee Boulevard for Allen Toussaint. Or as one media outlet headlined: "Lee Surrenders Again."

New Orleans City Council member Jared C. Brossett submitted the ordinance to the city's planning commission in December.

Allen Toussaint was a songwriter, producer, pianist and performer whose career started in his early teens and spanned decades. Toussaint was a primary architect of the distinctive New Orleans R&B sound. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2013.

The campaign to honor Toussaint started after his death in 2015 at the age of 77 and aligned with the push to rename several city parks and streets in New Orleans that were originally dedicated to white supremacists and confederates.

New Orleans City Council members formed the Street Renaming Commission, a collective that worked with historians, musicians, scholars and residents.

Last year, the council also voted unanimously to rename the Jefferson Davis Parkway for Norman C. Francis, the former president of Xavier University. Several other parks and streets around New Orleans have since been renamed.

Robert E. Lee Boulevard stretches 4 1/2 miles through the Lakeview and Gentilly neighborhoods in the northern part of the city, near Lake Pontchartrain. The street was originally named Hibernia Avenue to honor the thousands of Irish workers who died digging the New Basin Canal, but was renamed to Robert E. Lee Boulevard in 1960.

It will officially become Allen Toussaint Boulevard on Feb. 1.

Toussaint was chosen for his local and international contributions to the music scene, cultural impact and dedication to the city. Councilmember Brossett said, “Allen Toussaint encompasses everything that is naturally New Orleans.”

Allen Toussaint - It's A New Orleans Thing (Live on Sound Opinions)

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.