Winter 2007

Chicago Parks Commemorate Influential African Americans Impacting the City's History

Park District Celebrates Black History in Community Parks

Release Date: 01/19/07

In celebration of Black History Month in February, the Chicago Park District salutes the African Americans who have played an instrumental role in shaping the city’s legacy. To date, 40 parks across Chicago have been named in honor of influential African Americans such as Gwendolyn Brooks, George Washington Carver, Lorraine Hansberry, Mahalia Jackson, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Harold Washington.

“The Chicago Park District honors African Americans who have made important contributions to their communities and to the city at large,” said Park District General Superintendent and CEO Timothy J. Mitchell.

Individuals must be deceased at least one year before a park can be named in their honor. Proposed names are brought to the Chicago Park District’s Board of Commissioners meeting for review. Upon approval of the Board of Commissioners, the Chicago Park District posts a 45-day notice to solicit public input.

The 40 parks named for African Americans who have shaped the city include:

1.Abbott Park, 49 E. 95th St., is named after Robert Sengstacke Abbott. He was a journalist, businessman and founder of the Chicago Defender, one of the nation’s oldest African American newspapers.

2.Anderson Park, 3748 S. Prairie Ave., is named after attorney Louis B. Anderson, 2nd Ward alderman from 1917 to 1933 in the Douglas community.

3.Lillian Hardin Armstrong Park, 4433 S. St. Lawrence St., is named after the jazz musician, composer and bandleader.

4.Ashe Beach Park, 2701 E. 74th St., commemorates Arthur Ashe, who ranked No. 1 in the world and won three of four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. He served as chairman of the Black Tennis and Sports Foundation and was active in creating inner-city youth tennis camps in Chicago.

5.Boler Park, 3601 W. Arthington St., is named after Leo Roscoe Boler, a former resident of North Lawndale who was active in many west side political and civic groups.

6.Arnita Young Boswell Park, 6644-48 S. University Ave., memorializes the social worker, educator and activist who founded Chicago’s League of Black Women.

7.Bradley Park, 9729 S. Yates Ave., honors local resident and community activist Josephine Bradley.

8.Gwendolyn Brooks Park, 4534-40 S. Greenwood Ave., honors one of Chicago’s most acclaimed and beloved poets, who served as the Poet Laureate of Illinois and won the Pulitzer Prize.

9.Mandrake Park, 901 W. Pershing Rd., is named after Henry McNeil “Mandrake” Brown, who spearheaded the grassroots effort in Chicago to remove alcohol and tobacco-related billboards specifically aimed towards African American and Latino children.

10.Brown Memorial Park, 644 E. 86th St., is named after Sidney Brown, the first African American firefighter to die in the line of duty in Chicago.

11.Carver Park, 939 E. 132nd St., honors scientist George Washington Carver. Born to a slave mother, he moved to Alabama after obtaining his bachelor’s and master’s degrees to direct the department of agriculture at Tuskegee Institute. His work with Tuskegee transformed agricultural production in the south and stimulated the region’s economy.

12.Cole Park, 361 E. 85th St., salutes pianist and singer Nat King Cole, who grew up in Chicago and went on to become one of the nation’s most popular singers. In 1957, he became the first African American to host his own weekly network television show.

13.Bessie Coleman Park, 5445 S. Drexel Ave., is named after the nation’s first African-American female pilot. She became the first African American to hold an international pilot license. Today, there is a group of African-American female pilots known as the Bessie Coleman Aviators Club.

14.Cooper Park, 1332 W. 117th St., commemorates Jack L. Cooper, Chicago’s first African American sportscaster, newscaster and radio executive.

15.Debow Park, 1126 E. 80th St., is named after Judge Russell R. DeBow, the first African American to hold an administrative position on the staff of the mayor of Chicago in 1965. In 1971, he was appointed Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court.

16.Lorraine L. Dixon Park, 8701-9159 S. Dauphin Ave., is named after the Chicago alderman who became the first woman to head the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations.

17.Dunbar Park, 200 E. 31st St., memorializes Paul Laurence Dunbar, one of the nation’s first critically acclaimed African American authors. He self published his first book of poetry in 1893 and was invited to Chicago to recite his works at the World’s Columbian Exposition.

18.DuSable Park, 401 N. Lake Shore Drive, is named after Jean Baptiste du Sable, the first non-Native American settler of Chicago. A Haitian of French and African descent, he established a remote trading post near what is now Pioneer Court, just north of the river.

19.Lorraine Hansberry Park, 5635 S. Indiana Ave., is named after the author of the classic “A Raisin in the Sun.” In 1959, Hansberry became the youngest person and first African American to win the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award for Best Play of the Year.

20.Ryan Harris Memorial Park, 6701-6859 S. Lowe Ave., in the Englewood community honors Ryan Harris who was tragically murdered at the age of 11. The Englewood community celebrates Harris’ life annually at the park on July 28.

21.Vivian Gordon Hash Park, 4458 S. Oakenwald, honors the librarian who established research collections related to African American history well before public awareness of the topic.

22.Houston Park, 5001 S. Cottage Grove Ave., commemorates Rev. Jessie "Ma" Houston. After overcoming a case of childhood paralysis, she settled in Chicago in her early 20s and began helping other disabled people. In addition to actively participating in the Civil Rights Movement, Houston was instrumental in prison reform and was the first woman allowed to serve as a minister to prisoners on death row in Illinois.

23.Mahalia Jackson Park, 8385 S. Bickhoff Ave., is named after the gospel singer who became famous throughout the world for her beautiful, warm contralto voice.

24.Nancy Jefferson Park, 3101 W. Fulton Boulevard, is named after a nurse, social worker and civic leader.

25.Mary Jane Richardson Jones Park, 1220 S. Plymouth Ct., memorializes the women’s rights activist, philanthropist and abolitionist who helped hundreds of slaves find safety through the Underground Railroad.

26.King Park and Family Entertainment Center, 1200-1222 W. 77th St., is named after civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King.

27.Leland Giants Park, 7526 S. Lowe Ave., memorializes the Leland Giants, an African-American baseball team that dominated the Chicago Baseball League and played at the intersection of 79th Street and Wentworth Avenue during the early 20th century.

28.Mason Park, 4100 W. End Ave., is named after Elizabeth James Mason, a beloved Chicagoan who served as the West Garfield Park community’s first African-American crossing guard.

29.Metcalfe Park, 4196 S. State St., honors Ralph Metcalfe, an accomplished Olympic athlete who then entered politics and served as an Alderman and then a Congressman.

30.Donald Jordan Nash Community Center, 1833 E. 71st St., is named after a Chicago native who volunteered as a mentor and teacher. He became the first African American to serve as Vice President of Community and Governmental Affairs for Coca Cola Company.

31.Owens Park, 2100 E. 88th St., honors the world-renowned athlete Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics of 1936. He served as Director of the Chicago Boys Club, the Illinois State Athletic Commission and the Illinois Youth Commission.

32.Lucy Ella Gonzales Parsons Park, 4712 W. Belmont Ave., honors the labor reformer and women’s rights activist.

33.Robichaux Park, 9247 S. Eggleston Ave., is named after Joseph J. Robichaux, a businessman and community organizer. He was executive director of the Baldwin Ice Cream Company, the first African-American owned ice cream producer in the country. He served as a Cook County Commissioner and participated in several charitable and civic organizations.

34.Robinson Park, 10540 S. Morgan St., is named for baseball great Jackie Robinson. He became the first African American to play major league baseball in 1947 when he was signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He went on to be voted “Rookie of the Year,” was named most valuable player and was elected to the 1962 Baseball Hall of Fame.

35.Smith Park, 9912 S. Princeton Ave., honors Wendell Smith, a sports reporter who worked for WGN-TV and The Chicago Sun-Times.

36.Robert Taylor Park, 41W. 47th St., is named after the urban planner who was first African American to chair the Chicago Housing Authority. After graduating in architecture from Howard University, he relocated to Chicago to build affordable homes for African Americans.

37.Mamie Till-Mobley Park, 6404-16 S. Ellis Ave., honors the woman who helped ignite the American Civil Rights Movement after her son Emmett Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955.

38.Dinah Washington Park, 8213-17 S. Euclid Ave., honors one of the most versatile and talented vocalists in America’s popular music history. She won a Grammy Award in 1959 for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance. In 1993, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Dinah Washington stamp.

39.Washington (Harold) Park, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd., honors Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor.

40.Williams Park, 2710 S. Dearborn St., is named after Dr. Daniel Hale Williams who performed the world’s first successful open heart surgery in 1893.

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