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In Nashville, Spelling Frederick Douglass' Name Correctly Ends An 80-Year Mystery

For nearly 80 years, this sign misspelled the name of famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Blake Farmer/Nashville Public Radio
For nearly 80 years, this sign misspelled the name of famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Historians in Nashville have been on the hunt for a prominent man named Fred Douglas. But they are happy to report that no one by the name has been found. Because they had a pretty good hunch that a park bought in the 1930s was named after the famed abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass. The name just wasn't spelled correctly.

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How the name ended up in an abbreviated style has been a mystery that lingered for decades and has only now been corrected after citizens forced the issue. While the clarification has not been controversial, there was a time that the mere idea of the park ruffled feathers. It was just the city's second "Negro park," and the first was named for a white family.

The white neighbors of what would become Douglas Park were so angry the city put the plans on ice for a few years, then quietly opened the park with no fanfare or explanation for the name. Some historians believe the name could have been left vague as a form of plausible deniability. For more than 80 years, there's been confusion about whether the city meant to honor Frederick Douglass.

Copyright 2021 WPLN News. To see more, visit WPLN News.

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
Blake Farmer
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