DC Park To Be Renamed In Honor Of Former Black Landowner

Wasington, D.C., lawmakers corrected a centuries old wrong, authorizing the renaming of a local park and recreational center in honor of the family of a former slave and landowner.

According to the DCist, the District on Saturday (June12) celebrated the renaming of Lafayette Park in Chevy Chase to Lafayette-Pointer Recreation Center. The move comes after a campaign led by the Historic Chevy Chase DC, an organization that focuses on protecting the historic value of the neighborhood. 

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The land was originally owned by Captain George Pointer, a former slave who contributed to building Maryland’s C&O Canal in the early-to-mid 1800s. Pointer, who also helped obtain critical materials for the building of many federal buildings and monuments in D.C., owned a large portion of land for over 80 years. It was eventually claimed by eminent domain to serve a growing and predominantly white Chevy Chase neighborhood, the report notes. The land was sold for $200,000, far less than its market value at the time, and would eventually become Lafayette Square. 

In the mid-2010s, local historians Barbara Boyle Torrey and Clara Myrick Green found an 1829 letter by Pointer but were soon inspired to search for any descendants of Pointer and managed to find one in 68-year old James Fisher.

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While Pointer’s name will now be honored by the land he once owned, there have been more efforts to make sure his story isn’t forgotten. However, the family and two historians are aiming to make sure Pointer’s story is told on the national stage. 

“My hope is that eventually the [National Museum of African American History and Culture] will take George Pointer’s 18th-century letter from the National Archives and put it in their museum,” Torrey tells the DCist.

Lafayette Square’s renaming is one of many changes to parks, roads, and public properties named after segregationist figures around the country, according to the report. Though this has been a movement among local activists and lawmakers in the local area, the issues are associated with the overall racial tension of the country as well as its history. 

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