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Fred Douglas Park is now officially Frederick Douglass Park

March 10, 2017

Park Board votes unanimously to correct name

Nashville, TN --- The Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation today unanimously voted to “clarify and correct” the name of what is currently known as Fred Douglas Park to Frederick Douglass Park. The vote to correct the name of the park came after Parks Director Tommy Lynch reported to the Board that there is compelling evidence that the park was named after Frederick Douglass, the renowned African American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and Statesman.

As one of his last official acts as Parks Director, Lynch told the Board after several media outlets reported on the name issue that he had met with several prominent local historians and received a number of phone calls and emails from the public citing additional research or giving anecdotal information. “This information coupled with research and insight presented by our local scholars and historians gave us the evidence needed to confidently go forward to clarify and correct the name of the park,” said Lynch.

Lynch said the evidence was “compelling” that the park was named after Douglass, but since it was a part of the 1935 Parks Board minutes, he wanted to make the correction part of the official minutes of this month’s meeting. Lynch thanked local historians Dr. Reavis Mitchell, Fisk University; Dr. Bobby Lovett, retired from Tennessee State University; Dr. Linda Wynn, Fisk University and the Tennessee Historical Commission; David Ewing, Historian and Attorney, and Tim Walker, executive director of Metro’s Historical Commission.

Historian and writer Leland R. Johnson first documented the history of the park in the 1986 book, THE PARKS OF NASHVILLE: A History of the Board of Parks and Recreation. Johnson wrote “ The origin of the name is obscure; at its meeting of May 17, 1935, the Board named it ‘Douglas Park,” as shown in the typed minutes, but someone with an ink pen inserted “Fred” in front of Douglas, probably at the next Board meeting when the minutes were read. No Fred Douglas prominent in Nashville or East Nashville history has been identified, and the Park Board may well have intended to honor Frederick Douglass (1817?-1895), the famous black leader, journalist, and statesman.” The 32-acre park opened in 1963.

The Parks Department will hold a brief ceremony to honor the Statesman and the community’s action to correct the name of the park at a date still to be determined. The park is located on 210 North 7th Street.