North Texas

Petition Calls to Rename Fort Worth Park Named After Confederate President

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the re-naming of Jefferson Davis Park in Fort Worth. The woman who started the petition believes the name does not reflect the diversity of the community.

In two days, the petition has received thousands of signatures.

The park was purchased in 1923, during the height of the Ku Klux Klan revival. In the 1920s the largest KKK chapter was in North Texas.

While African Americans were fighting against the harshness of Jim Crow and pushing for equal rights, Confederate symbols began to emerge.

“People were fighting change, so the parks, the statues, the monuments represented a part of the past the South wanted to hold on to,” said former Star Telegram journalist Bob Ray Sanders.

Sanders, who is the communications director of the Fort Worth Black Chamber of Commerce grew up with the threat of looming violence from the KKK.

Ku Klux Klan gathering of the Fort Worth Klan No. 101; Klan members in robes and hoods holding signs, no date [ca. early 1920s] Photographer: Roy Jernigan (Courtesy: University of Texas at Arlington Library)

“The KKK was very much a part of Fort Worth. You couldn’t get elected without the backing of the KKK and, which meant you were a member of it. They were there to intimidate, but we forced them to show their faces and now we know who they are,” said Sanders.

After consideration, he believes the name on the park should remain.

“I don’t believe in removing statues or re-naming parks because its history. These are markers that tell us about our past, no matter how painful that past may be,” said Sanders. "The problem is, the true history behind Confederacy is not told. A plaque should sit next to the name of the park letting people know who Jefferson Davis was and the Confederate legacy."

The Confederate states of America was a self-proclaimed nation of 11 states in the South. The wealthy economy of the South was overwhelming dependent upon “free labor” black slaves. During the Civil War, the Confederacy fought to maintain their economy, but lost.

According to Southern Poverty Law Center, there are more than 1,500 public Confederate symbols, statues, monuments, park names, counties, cities, and school names throughout the United States.

“People should know who Jefferson Davis is. He was a traitor, accused of treason, and spent two years in jail. All history needs to be told, you don’t erase it at your convenience. History informs us of so much,” said Sanders.

Currently, Fort Worth city officials are working with the parks department to gather more background information on the Jefferson Davis Park. City leaders will take the petition and public sentiment into consideration.

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