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  • Writer's pictureBrandi & Candace

Hadley Park

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

Name: Hadley Park

Address: 1037 28th Ave B, 37209

History: 3 out of 5

Walkability: 4 out of 5

Kid Like-ability- 4 out of 5

Date Night-ability- 2 out of 5

Charm: 3 out of 5

Founded 1912, with over 30 acres, this park has a community center, a playground, public restrooms, picnic shelters, baseball fields, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a bandshell, and a paved walking/jogging path. It also has a memorial commemorating fallen African American WW1 soldiers from Davidson County. It was originally purchased for $20,000, specifically to be a park for Black Nashvillians- the first in Nashville, and one of the first in the country (Mayor Howse at the time proclaimed it “the first public park for [Negro] citizens in the country” but this is unproven). This has been a great intersection for Black Nashvillians, sitting between Tennessee State University, Fisk University, and Jefferson Street- the heart of Black commerce for a long time in this city. Many events have been hosted here, noteably the African Street Festival.

The name Hadley Park has been debated for quite some time. We know the land was originally a part of the Harding Property, which was a plantation that also encompassed modern-day TSU. We know there were multiple Hadley families in the area, including the John L. Hadley family, a while slave-owning family that helped former slaves adjust to freedom, and the W. A. Hadley family, headed by a pioneer Black physician who worked with the state during the 1897 Centennial. No one at the time publically confirmed whom the park was named for, but the Black newspaper at the time- The Nashville Globe- mused at the time they assumed it was for the John L. Hadley family. It was pointed out that the land of Hadley Park was once the spot that the white John L. Hadley invited Frederick Douglass to come and speak in 1873, to help inspire recently freed slaves. However if that were true, it’s surprising that none of John L. Hadley’s family came to the park dedication, although all of his children were alive and lived in the area.

In contrast, if the park were named after the Black Hadley family, this would make sense. Dr. W. A. Hadley was close friends and colleagues with E.C. Lewis, who was the head of the parks board who came up with the idea for Hadley Park and named it. Lewis helped usher in the birth of Nashville Parks as we know it, even birthing Centennial Park and the Parthenon.

Either way, many activists today strongly advocate for the park to be renamed rather than risk the heart of Black Nashville being possibly named for a slaveowner. One of the popular names discussed is Malcom X Park. The Metro Nashville Parks Board has pointed to a policy that they “do not rename parks” and therefore won’t entertain the motion, but this is empathically not true as they absolutely have renamed parks in the past.

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