Chicago Park To Be Renamed After Abolitionist Frederick Douglass

A popular park on Chicago’s West Side will be named after the 19th century abolitionists, Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray-Douglass.

The park was originally named after a former Illinois senator and slaveowner.

Chicago Park District commissioners voted Wednesday (November 18) to officially rename the 173-acre park created in 1869 and named for Stephen Douglas after years of efforts by a group of high school students. The teenagers previously painted an extra "S" on signs in the park that carried its original name, "Douglas Park."

Stephen Douglas lost the presidential election to Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and died a year later.

Students at Village Leadership Academy began pushing for the name change in 2016. Their original choice was to honor Rekia Boyd, who was shot and killed near the park in 2012 by an off-duty police officer, Dante Servin.

Servin, 51, was charged in 2013 with involuntary manslaughter but found not guilty at trial in 2015.

Servin said he heard a report of a noise complaint and responded to Douglas Park. Boyd and three others were leaving that area when they crossed paths with Servin, who was sitting inside his vehicle in an alley near Albany Avenue and 15th Place.

Following a verbal altercation between the parties, Servin – who was still inside his vehicle – fired multiple shots over his left shoulder at the group, striking one man in the hand and Boyd in the back of the head, killing her.

Servin claimed he fired the shots in self-defense after a man pulled a gun from his waistband. No firearm was ever recovered.

The student’s choice to honor Boyd was rejected by officials for lacking historical significance. The students settled on Frederick Douglass and his wife, who helped him escape slavery.

The vote to rename the park came after 45 days of public comments following park district commissioners’ July decision to remove Stephen Douglas’ name.

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