Metro Council To Weigh In On Renaming Fred Douglas Park

Feb 21, 2017

The Metro Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night in support of changing the name of Fred Douglas Park. The problem is, the parks board isn't technically allowed to change the names of parks.

There is a rule in the Metro Parks bylaws that says no park, once named, may ever be changed. That's why attorney and historian David Ewing is characterizing the renaming as a restoration effort.

"Changing 'Fred Douglas' with one 'S' to 'Frederick Douglass' is more of a correction than a name change," he says.

Ewing has spearheaded the research project on the site's name. The 7-acre park in East Nashville was opened without fanfare as a playground for African Americans in 1936. White neighbors had protested its creation. Ewing believes the misspelling of Douglas might have even been intentional, giving the parks board some cover. In the 1930s, he says, it could have made waves to name any government property after a black man.

North Nashville's Hadley Park, which Ewing says was the city's first park for African Americans, was likely named after the white slave-owning family who once owned the site.

The Metro Council is voting on a resolution in support of formally recognizing Douglas Park as honoring famed abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass, but the parks board has the final say over tweaking the name.