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  • Writer's pictureBrandi & Candace

Frankie Pierce Park

Frankie Pierce Park is pretty new, sitting at 130 Lifeway Plaza. It opened November 13th, 2019. It is a 2.5 acre pocket park in the Gulch, but there is a lot in that 2.5 acres. There are sculptures, a sand volleyball court, a beautiful artsy playground, a paved path, and a dog park. This ark also acts as the trailhead for the Gulch Greenway. This particular neighborhood was once known as Hell’s Half Acre, a predominately impoverished Black neighborhood.

Juno Frankie Pierce, the park’s namesake, did so much in her lifetime. The daughter of a slave and a freedman, Frankie was born just before the end of the Civil War. But her accomplishments began early in her life, with her college education at Roger Williams University. She began teaching at schools for Black children, including Bellview School. She then opened her own educational institution, the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls, in 1923, where she served as superintendent. She served as president of the Negro Women’s Reconstruction League, on the board for the Nashville Red Cross, the Federation of Colored Women’s Club, the Management Committee of the YWCA. She organized protests and rallies, notably leading a march downtown to demand public restrooms for black women- successfully so, as Montgomery Ward did install restrooms for black women in its Nashville store. She rallied 2,500 black women to register to vote in the 1919 Nashville elections, and reached out to white women’s’ clubs to help the suffragette cause. She even addressed the first convention of the Tennessee League of Women Voted in 1920, speaking in the state Capitol building.

In my research, my favorite thing about Frankie Pierce comes in August 1919, where The Tennessean wrote a vague article commenting on the “undesirable” element of “colored women voters” coming out in the recent election. Pierce wrote a letter to the editor of competing Nashville Banner newspaper, which was printed in 08.16.1919, stating that the vagueness was unnecessary, and requesting the writer refer to the “undesirable women” by name, and named a list of the Black women who were voting, herself including. It’s such a ballsy and gutsy move.

And so, in a neighborhood she prominently served in her lifetime, a park has been erected in her name, designed by a female architect, on the 100th anniversary of Tennessee women getting the vote. More notably, it’s the 100th anniversary of Pierce’s speech on behalf of Black women, at the Tennessee Capitol, a mere 150 feet away. It’s poignant and beautiful.

Now, we know Nashville is falling in love with pocket parks. What’s interesting is, often times these pocket parks have major corporate sponsors. This is absolutely important. Metro Nashville Parks built in the 1930s and 1940s generally have a lot of cinder cement walls and steps, with ironwork trim. Parks built in the 1950s and 1960s forwent all of those types of accessibility and accents, instead, pumping more money into the community centers. Parks built in the 1970s and 1980s generally don’t have much in the way of trim or stuff, instead relying on wide open fields of grass. Parks built in the 1990s and 2000s have huge bulky plasticy playgrounds more than anything else. And parks built in the 2010s have corporate sponsors, bright playful colors, art accents, and interactive features. Frankie Pierce Park is no exception. On a site that’s the future neighbor to Amazon, we can see why this was created here, and it works. This is absolutely the perfect park for the Millennial Parent. As the three of us adults ran around, we excitedly pointed out “ooh lookit this!” and “ooh lookit that!” to each other as we explored the landscape.

Name: Frankie Pierce Park

Address: 130 Lifeway Plaza, 37203

History: 4 out of 5

Walkability: 3 out of 5

Kid Like-ability- 5 out of 5

Date Night-ability- 2 out of 5

Charm: 5 out of 5

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