R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin Memorial Highway signage unveiled

    State Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit) with members of the Aretha Franklin family on Aug. 24, 2020 | Ken Coleman

    State and local officials on Monday afternoon gathered to unveil signage for the Aretha Franklin Memorial Highway in Detroit. It is located on a portion of the M-10 in Detroit better known as the Lodge Freeway.  

    “The people of Michigan are proud to claim Aretha Franklin,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “Now as people from all over the world travel to Detroit on the Aretha Franklin Memorial Highway, they will be reminded of the profound impact that she had on the city and on the state.”

    Franklin, an 18-time Grammy award-winning recording artist, died in August 2018 after a lengthy bout with pancreatic cancer. She was 76. The unveiling event occurred 35 years to the day that Franklin’s song, “Freeway of Love,” was the nation’s No. 1 song on the rhythm and blues chart. 

    Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also spoke to Franklin’s commitment to the state where she lived for most of her life. 

    “Unlike others who came from the city and left, this freeway actually tracks the extraordinary course of her life,” said Duggan. “Anybody who passes through this city, no matter how briefly, is going to be reminded that the queen of soul came from the city of Detroit.”

    Franklin joins legendary educator Violet T. Lewis , founder of Lewis College of Business, in having a portion of M-10 named after them. State Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit) sponsored legislation in 2019 to create the highway designation for Franklin.  

    “It’s not just a sign,” Love said. “It’s a symbol. It is a reminder every time of the struggle, but also the victory.”

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.