The Chicago Park District board voted on Wednesday to renaming Stephen A. Douglas Park on the Chicago’s West Side to orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass and his wife, Anna Murray-Douglass, who helped him escape from slavery and supported his anti-slavery work. Stephen A. Douglas was a U.S. Senator from Illinois who owned 129 slaves. The park at 1401 S. Sacramento Drive was named after Douglas in 1869.
Students from Village Leadership Academy and community members have been advocating for the name change since 2016 and launched a GoFundMe, raising more than $15,000.
The students originally wanted to name the park in memory of Rekiya Boyd, who was shot to death in 2012 by an off-duty Chicago police detective, Dante Servin, who was found not guilty for reckless homicide. Officials recommend that the students pick a more historically prominent figure.
Since the death of George Floyd, there has been protesting for the removal of Confederate statues. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan called for the removal of the Douglas statues and portrait from the grounds of the state capitol. Illinois lawmakers have called for the removal of the Douglas statue from his tomb in Bronzeville, and the University of Chicago removed two campus tributes to Douglas.
The board will have 45 days to hear public comments and ensure that the name change has support from residents, organizations, and public officials.