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Douglas Park
Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth RivasDouglas Park

Douglas Park will be renamed for American abolitionist Frederick Douglass

The name change unanimously cleared an initial vote by the Chicago Park District Board on Wednesday.

Emma Krupp
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Emma Krupp
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It’s official: Douglas Park will soon be renamed for the pioneering American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the Chicago Park District Board decided Wednesday in a unanimous vote.

The North Lawndale park is currently named for Stephen A. Douglas, the Illinois senator who championed a states’ rights approach to slavery in pre-Civil War America—an effective endorsement for its continued spread across the country. Douglass, a Black abolitionist who escaped slavery as a young man, spent his life writing and advocating for the antislavery cause.

The move to name the park after Douglass comes after years of community activism urging city officials to consider a name change—including petitions, teach-ins and an anonymous person who painted an extra ‘S’ on the park’s signage earlier this year, among other efforts—before the park district board elected to hold a special meeting on the issue.

Don’t expect a name change overnight. The decision sets up a 45-day period for public comment, so that locals to have a chance to weigh in on the proposal. After that period, the park district is expected to remove all mention of the current name from signage and formally begin the process of renaming the park.

The decision seems to signal that other statues and namesakes with problematic origins in Chicago's public park system—such as the statue of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park—may soon be candidates for removal or renaming.

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