Do NOT Rename Hadley Park Malcolm X Park
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Hadley Park should not be changed to "Malcolm X Park"
Background. There is a petition circulating called "Rename Hadley Park: Malcolm X Park." It claims that Malcolm X was a "peace soldier" and that John L. Hadley was a slave owner who felt no remorse or responsibility for his misdeeds as a slave owner. Both are untrue.
The facts. This is the text on the historic marker placed at the park erected by the Tennessee Historical Commission: "In 1912, Nashville officials purchased 34 acres of land to provide a public park for Negro citizens. Originally a part of the John L. Hadley plantation, Hadley Park was dedicated on July 4th. It is considered the first public park in the United States for African Americans. Named for either the pioneer African-American physician Dr. W. A. Hadley or John L. Hadley, supporter of freedmen after the Civil War, Hadley Park continues as a benchmark in the community's cultural heritage."
You decide if this rises to the level of scorn and vengeance that the petitioner claims such that "WE WILL NO LONGER STAND FOR THIS RACIST ATROCITY! We demand that our park be renamed Malcolm X Park."
The petition's description of John Hadley omits these vital facts that are found on the African American News and Genealogy blog: "John L. Hadley. Although a former slaveholder, Hadley was intent on helping his freed slaves adapt to their new status as productive citizens. The white-haired (abolitionist Frederick) Douglass even sat for a photo portrait by Nashville's German-American photographer Carl C. Giers. Mayor Howse (1866-1938), a Democrat and social reformer dedicated to uniting Nashville's ethnic communities, was in his element at the 1912 dedication. He promised the Hadley Park crowd of a few hundred a fair and square deal for all races by his administration."
In truth the park is a beacon of unity rather than a "racist atrocity." Why throw this history away in anger?
The petitioner may very well be making a false claim (intentionally or not), and Nashville could stumble into renaming a park (that now recognizes a prominent African-American physician, or a remorseful former slave owner) to an incendiary and divisive convicted felon with no Nashville ties.
We believe that Hadley Park should not be changed to "Malcolm X Park."
Instead, the signers of this petition believe that if the name of the park is changed that a non-violent civil rights pioneer, or other distinguished African American (doctor, business person, educator, philanthropist, political figure, scientist, artist, etc.) would be a much better choice than Malcolm X. Is Malcolm X a better role model than President Barack Obama, the first black president? Why not rename it Oprah Winfrey Park? She is arguably the most successful person from Nashville--black, white, male, or female--in history.
Or, perhaps the historic marker can be corrected to identify Dr. W. A. Hadley as the rightful namesake, and we can therefore learn from history rather than destroy it. Either way, we believe that hastily changing the name of a beloved nationally historic park to such a controversial and divisive person is a very bad idea for Nashville.
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