Jim Crow deleted from Hyattsville park deed

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City of Hyattsville

A worker removes the William Pinckney Magruder Park sign from a park entrance in Hyattsville.

Segregationist Jim Crow-era clauses restricting Magruder Park for Hyattsville’s “caucasian” residents have been deleted from the deed underlying the city park. Now, Hyattsville City Council could decide on a new name for Magruder Park as soon as December, according to new details of a renaming process announced during Hyattsville City Council’s Sept. 21, 2020, meeting.

Calls to rename the park date to 2018, with critics noting much of the park was donated in the 1920s by its namesake William Pinkney Magruder with deed clauses restricting the use of the park to “caucasians.” While those deed clauses were rendered unenforceable by a 1948 Supreme Court ruling, they remained on the books until very recently. 

In August, Hyattsville City Council directed city staff to move forward with a process to gather new name suggestions. Those names would then be vetted by two Hyattsville advisory committees, including the city’s Race and Equity Task Force and the city’s Health, Wellness and Recreation Advisory Committee. In June, the city removed signs bearing Magruder’s name from the park, citing vandalism. Prior to that, in May 2020, Hyattsville City Council directed the city attorney to pursue a quitclaim dead that would allow the city to remove the controversial deed clauses. 

During the Sept. 21, 2020, meeting, City Manager Tracey Douglas told City Council that the quitclaim deed had been completed and the offending language had been removed. With that out of the way, the city can now officially begin the process of renaming the park. 

According to a timeline discussed by Douglas, the city will solicit suggested names online and by mail. A pre-paid postcard will be included in the October Greensheet city newsletter that residents can fill out and mail back to the city. Additionally, the city will have a dropbox in Magruder Park where residents can submit suggested names. 

Submissions will be accepted starting in October. The deadline to submit a name for consideration is November 15, 2020. 

The plan calls for City Council members to hold ward meetings with constituents in October and November to gather additional feedback from residents on the renaming. After review by the advisory committees, selected submissions could be presented for City Council consideration in early December.

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