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 Century Hyattsville artist and scholar in Driskell.
After a public hearing that saw dozens of city residents weigh in, Hyattsville City Council continues to be split over what to rename Magruder Park. Two options, however, have seemingly won the most vocal support from public commenters and City Council members – naming the park after either David C. Driskell or the Nacotchtank indigenous people who once inhabited the Anacostia River basin.
Hyattsville City Council will soon launch an official effort to solicit a new name for Magruder Park, but the details still need to be hammered out.
The park’s current namesake, prominent early 20th-century Hyattsville politician William Pinkney Magruder, has come under scrutiny partially because he donated much of the land for the park with segregationist deed clauses that prohibited people of color from the park.
Earlier this year, the city removed signs bearing Magruder’s name from the park entrances after the signs were vandalized. City Manager Tracey Douglas outlined a proposed outreach effort to rename the park during Hyattsville City Council’s Aug. 10, 2020, meeting. Hyattsville City Council was generally supportive, but only discussed the proposal, and took no action. The measure is expected to return for discussion and possible action at the next City Council meeting.
According to the proposal, city officials would first announce a “name selection challenge” in local news outlets, social media and the Hyattsville Green Sheet – a newsletter sent by mail to city residents. City officials plan to solicit input through Hyattsville’s website, a physical suggestion box at the park, or by email to ParkName@Hyattsville.org.
City communications staff will collate the responses and provide reports to the Health, Wellness and Recreation Advisory Committee and the Hyattsville Race and Equity Task Force.
Hyattsville will try a unique legal strategy to remove segregationist clauses that still exist on the deed underlying Magruder Park. At its May 4, 2020, meeting, Hyattsville City Council unanimously approved a resolution directing city staff to work with outside attorneys to prepare a “quitclaim deed” for the park that would allow the city to remove the racially restrictive deed clause.
The move comes more than a year after Hyattsville City Council directed city staff to research possible ways the deed could be amended or the name of the park could be changed. The May 4 resolution only focuses on amending the deed. The issue has been bubbling in Hyattsville’s civic discourse since Sept. 2018, when city resident Jim Groves proposed changing the name of the park because its namesake, prominent early 20-century Prince George’s landowner and politician William Pinkney Magruder, donated some of the land with a clause the restricting its use “for the Caucasian inhabitants only” of Hyattsville.
Hyattsville’s institutional role in racist policymaking is being brought into sharper focus.
Last week, City officials received a report on the city’s history of Jim Crow-era segregationist policymaking and land-dealing. They also began debating a resolution that would lay out a process to explore renaming Magruder Park. The sponsors of the measure say the park’s namesake, William Pinkney Magruder, was a white supremacist, noting he donated the parkland to the city with conditions that only white residents be allowed to use it.
Hyattsville’s history of white supremacy was detailed before City Council last week by Hyattsville Community Development Corp. Executive Director Stuart Eisenberg. It was part of a presentation reviewing his work on the Mapping Racism project, which seeks to document and map properties subject to racially-restrictive covenants in Hyattsville.