West Side park renamed Douglass Park after yearslong effort by student activists

The decision came two months after district officials stripped the park, established in 1869, of its original name, “Douglas Park” — an homage to former Illinois senator and slave owner Stephen Douglas.

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The Chicago Park District voted Wednesday to rename Douglas Park, 1401 S. Sacramento Blvd., in honor of former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass and his wife Anna Murray-Douglass.

The Chicago Park District voted Wednesday to rename Douglas Park, 1401 S. Sacramento Blvd., in honor of former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass and his wife Anna Murray-Douglass.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

An extra letter can make a world of difference.

Such is the case for the sprawling West Side park that, after a yearslong effort by student activists, will now bear the name of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray-Douglass.

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The Chicago Park District on Wednesday voted to officially rename the 173-acre park at 1401 S. Sacramento Blvd. to Douglass Park.

The decision came two months after district officials stripped the park, established in 1869, of its original name, “Douglas Park” — an homage to former Illinois senator and slave owner Stephen Douglas.

The park is in the North Lawndale neighborhood, where the vast majority of residents are Black.

Students at Village Leadership Academy have pushed for the name change since 2016. Their original suggestion was to honor Rekia Boyd, who was shot and killed near the park in 2012 by an off-duty police officer. Local officials encouraged the students to pick a more historically prominent figure. They settled on Frederick Douglass, as well as his wife Anna Murray-Douglass, who helped her husband escape slavery.

In an emailed statement, a park district spokeswoman said the name change was the first of its kind.

“This groundbreaking decision marks the first time the District has renamed a park already dedicated in honor of a historic figure,” said Michele Lemons, a district spokeswoman. “The Chicago Park District commends the students and teachers of Village Leadership Academy for their persistence and dedication to pushing forward this monumental effort that celebrates the Douglass’ life, legacy and contribution to social justice that continues to guide our work in access and equity.”

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