Hyattsville’s Magruder Park will be officially renamed David C. Driskell Park. The change in namesake replaces a prominent white, early 20th-Century Hyattsville politician and landowner, William Pinkney Magruder, with a prominent African American, late-20th and early-21st Century Hyattsville artist and scholar in Driskell.
Magruder’s status as the park’s namesake came under fire in 2018 after it was re-discovered Magruder donated much of the land for the park in 1927 with deed clauses that prohibited people of color from using the park. The renaming of the park follows related efforts by the city to revise the deed underlying the park to remove the racially restrictive language.
Driskell’s name rose among city residents and elected officials in part because he was considered to be one of the pre-eminent scholars of African American art since the 1970s. His death in 2020 from complication of Covid-19 was national news, and his profile was further elevated by an HBO documentary released in early 2021.
Hyattsville City Council made the renaming official with a 9-1 vote at its regular May 3, 2021, meeting. Voting against the measure was Ward One City Councilor Bart Lawrence, who said he was opposed to naming the park after any person. His concerns were shared by at least one other City Councilor, Ward 4 representative Edouard Haba, who nonetheless voted in favor of the Driskell renaming. Ward Five City Councilor and mayoral hopeful Joseph Solomon also said his preferred choice was not Driskell, but also voted to rename the park after him.
Ward Two City Councilor Robert Croslin, an early proponent of renaming the park after Driskell, said this was a “proud moment” for Hyattsville.
“I think it is long overdue that we honor him,” said Croslin.
Ward Five City Councilor Erica Spell-Wolf said she was happy to be part of City Council as it prepared to vote on the renaming.
“There are not a lot of opportunities in life we get to honor the work of extraordinary people,” said Spell-Wolf. “In the grand scheme of the impact of Driskell’s work, this is very small, but I am very glad to be a part of it”
Ward Four City Councilor Daniel Peabody said he was pleased with the outcome, and praised the community engagement effort undertaken by city officials to gather feedback about what to rename the park. That effort generated more than 800 suggestions from city residents, the vast majority of which supported naming the park after Driskell.
“The engagement of the community in this process has shown that we do have a lot to do in the city in terms of defining the place we live,” said Peabody. He went on to call for the new park to include an acknowledgment of the Nacotchtank indigenous people who lived in the Anacostia river basin during the earliest days of European colonization of North America.
Correction: This article has been updated to note Driskell lived in both the 20th and 21st centuries.