City’s Dou­glas Park to get new name — or an­other ‘S’

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY CLARE PROC­TOR, STAFF REPORTER cproc­tor@sun­times.com | @ce­proc­tor23

North Lawn­dale’s Dou­glas Park will soon get a new name.

The Chicago Park Dis­trict board voted unan­i­mously at a spe­cial meet­ing Wed­nes­day to be­gin the process of chang­ing the West Side park’s name to com­mem­o­rate abo­li­tion­ist Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, who es­caped slav­ery and be­came a well-known speaker and author, ad­vo­cat­ing for equal­ity and hu­man rights.

“It is time to right the wrongs of his­tory and re­claim our pub­lic space,” Sheila McNary, a mem­ber of the North Lawn­dale Com­mu­nity Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil, said at Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing. “We also recom­mit our­selves to racial and so­cial jus­tice, our com­mit­ment to so­cial eq­uity.”

Pro­po­nents have pushed the name change for years. Stephen Dou­glas, a U.S. se­na­tor from Illi­nois, owned slaves and lost to Abra­ham Lin­coln in the 1860 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. The park, at 1401 S. Sacra­mento Drive, was named after him in 1869.

“We have not ever stripped the name of a his­tor­i­cal fig­ure from a park and re­placed it with some­one else, which, in this in­stance, I don’t have a prob­lem with that,” said board Pres­i­dent Avis LaVelle.

The board de­cided on a two-step process, sep­a­rat­ing the vote to re­move the ob­jec­tion­able name from the vote for a new name.

Next is a 45-day pub­lic com­ment pe­riod to en­sure the new name has pub­lic sup­port.

Still, at the meet­ing, LaVelle said com­mis­sion­ers “know” the park will be re­named after Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, given the com­mu­nity has al­ready spo­ken in fa­vor.

Ear­lier this year, an anony­mous artist painted an extra “S” on a Dou­glas Park sign, McNary told the Sun-Times.

Some Illi­nois law­mak­ers al­ready have called for the re­moval of a statue of Dou­glas from his tomb in Bronzevill­e. Ear­lier this month, the Univer­sity of Chicago re­moved two tributes to Dou­glas. Illi­nois House Speaker Mike Madi­gan also has called for re­mov­ing memo­ri­als to Dou­glas in the state Capi­tol.

Stu­dents from Vil­lage Lead­er­ship Academy, 800 S. Wells St., have ad­vo­cated to re­name the park for Dou­glass since 2016. They also wanted to honor his wife, Anna Mur­ray-Dou­glass, who helped him es­cape slav­ery.

Jen­nifer Pagán, a for­mer academy teacher still in­volved in the name-change ef­fort, said she is ex­cited her stu­dents are fi­nally be­ing heard, but that ex­cite­ment is lay­ered with frus­tra­tion be­cause they weren’t in­vited to the board’s spe­cial meet­ing.

She thinks it is be­cause “they knew that our de­mands ex­tend past just a name change and that we re­ally are call­ing for an end to all white su­prem­a­cist mon­u­ments, stat­ues and land­marks through­out the city.”

The board did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

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Ear­lier this year, some­one added an extra “S” to this Dou­glas Park sign.

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