Metro Parks Officially Clarifies Name To Frederick Douglass Park

Mar 7, 2017

The board of Metro Parks has corrected an 80-year-old typo.

The panel voted unanimously Tuesday to clarify the name of East Nashville's Fred Douglas Park, to make sure it honors the famed abolitionist and orator, who spelled his name with two Ss and formally went by Frederick.

"We are so busy with so many things at the parks, we were kind of like, 'how could this be an oversight?'" says newly-named interim parks director Monique Odom. "We were more than eager to connect with local historians to make sure we had everything correct. And we're very, very pleased."

Outgoing parks director Tommy Lynch credited WPLN's Curious Nashville project for raising the issue. A listener asked in 2016 who the park was named for, and WPLN investigated in October.

But Lynch made it clear Tuesday that the department was not trying to formally change the park's name, which requires a much more involved process. Rather, this was characterized as a correction, citing evidence that Douglass often called himself Fred and added the second S to his own last name.

Some have proposed doing more to honor Douglass at the site.

"I think it's very possible that it will become more of a focal point moving forward, espeically for the African American community," Lynch says. "There's no telling where it will go from here."

However, it's still not perfectly clear what the parks board intended when the 7-acre site was purchased in 1934, with the purpose of turning it into a "negro park" for East Nashville. The board minutes never use the correct spelling of Douglass. But prominent Nashville historian David Ewing believes the naming was intentionally vague, since it would have been controversial at the time to name government property after a black man.