Signs bearing the name “William Pinckney Magruder Park” have been removed by the city of Hyattsville after vandals defaced at least one other sign with Magruder’s name, city officials announced June 22, 2020. The move comes as protests against systemic racism, police violence, and monuments to white supremacists have spread across the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
Calls to change Magruder Park’s name have been a topic in Hyattsville for more than a year. This is because in 1927 William Pinckney Magruder donated much of the land that now makes up the park with conditions that allowed only the city’s white residents to use it.
“The signage at Magruder Park has recently been vandalized by those protesting the name of the park’s donor, William Pinkney Magruder, and the offensive and segregationist language contained in the Magruder Park covenant/deed. The 1930’s deed reads “only Caucasian inhabitants of Hyattsville are permitted to use the park.” This racist and restrictive language is illegal, and a painful reminder of discriminatory practices that existed then and systematic racism that persists today,” reads a statement from the city of Hyattsville posted to social media. “It is unacceptable.”
W.P. Magruder was a prominent Prince Georgian and early Hyattsvillian. He came from a prominent slave-holding family that saw its fortunes diminish after the Civil War, which occurred when W.P. Magruder was a child. By the 1920s, he had risen to the heights of Prince George’s County politics and was Mayor of Hyattsville from 1909 to 1911. He was active in local politics during the height of the Jim Crow era. Racially-restrictive covenants began to proliferate in the city’s property deeds in the 1920s after Otway Zantzinger began to sell land in a large section of Hyattsville Hills with such clauses inserted. Racially-restrictive deed clauses are currently unenforceable due to a 1948 Supreme Court ruling.
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