A resolution requesting the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation to correct and/or update the name of Fred Douglas Park located at 210 North 7th Street as “Frederick Douglass Park”.

WHEREAS, Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist who, born into slavery in 1818, later escaped to freedom and rose to prominence as an orator, author, and champion of human rights; and

WHEREAS, Frederick Douglass made multiple appearances in Nashville, including a visit to Fisk University in 1873 when he spoke with students and viewed the foundation of Jubilee Hall under construction, he also visited the Tennessee State Capitol and met with Governor John C. Brown, toured the business section of the city, and gave an address to the Third Annual Fair of the Tennessee Colored Agricultural and Mechanical Association, which has been archived by the Library of Congress; and

WHEREAS, questions have been raised as to the origin of the name “Fred Douglas Park”. There are no indications that there is a Fred Douglas in Nashville history for which the park may have been otherwise named and there is no “Fred Douglas” living in Nashville listed in the Nashville City Directory in the 1930’s; and

WHEREAS, these circumstances have led many, including local lawyer and historian David Ewing, who is an expert on Nashville and African American history, to conclude that the Park Board intended to honor Frederick Douglass at the time the park was originally named; and

WHEREAS, in February 1936 Mrs. Nettie L. Napier, wife of Nashville Attorney J.C. Napier who was President of the “Douglass Memorial and Historical Association” announced that in February 1937 there would be a nationwide observance to Frederick Douglass’ 120th birthday

WHEREAS, Hilary Ewing Howse, mayor of Nashville in 1936 when Frederick Douglass Park was established, was also mayor in 1912 and responsible for establishing Hadley Park, recognized as the first African American, city-owned park in the United States. At the Hadley Park dedication on July 4, 1912, Mayor Howse said to the crowd, “I know of no city that has shown greater consideration for your race in the matter of parks.”

WHEREAS, an article appearing June 7, 1936 in The Tennessean indicated the original intent to name the park after Frederick Douglass, stating:

“Final plans are now being made by east Nashville leaders for the parade and field day activities which will be staged at the Frederick Douglass Park next Saturday. The plot of ground, bought for negroes of East Nashville, is located on Fite Street in the Bransford Addition. The parade will form at the Meigs School and will begin at 10 o’clock.”

WHEREAS, Frederick Douglass Park was officially dedicated on July 4, 1938 six months after the death of Mayor Howse. 1,000 African Americans were present during this dedication; and

WHEREAS, additional evidence suggests that “Fred Douglas” may have been an intentional misspelling to detract from the honor bestowed upon a prominent African-American civil rights advocate; and

WHEREAS, the naming of parks falls under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation. (See, Policy Manual, section 3000.1(IV)(L)). Under the historic circumstances summarized above, the evident confusion, and the merits of fully commemorating the contributions to history made by Frederick Douglass, it is fitting and proper that the name Fred Douglas Park be corrected and/or restored to “Frederick Douglass Park.”

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation Policy Manual provides: “No park once named may ever be changed.” (section 3000.1(IV)(L)). Nevertheless, it is appropriate and within policy rules that the Fred Douglas Park name not be “changed” but rather corrected and/or restored to “Frederick Douglass Park.”


Section 1. That the Metropolitan County Council hereby goes on record as requesting the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation correct and/or update the name of Fred Douglas Park located at 210 North 7th Street to “Frederick Douglass Park”.

Section 2. The Metropolitan Clerk is direct to send a copy of this Resolution to Parks Director Tommy Lynch and to the members of the Board of Parks and Recreation.

Section 3. This Resolution shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.

Sponsored by: Scott Davis, Bob Mendes, Angie Henderson, Mina Johnson


Referred to: Parks, Library, and Recreation Committee  
Introduced: February 21, 2017
Adopted: February 21, 2017
Returned unsigned by the Mayor: February 22, 2017

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