A Chicago pastor has called on Mayor Rahm Emmanuel to rename two parks named for former Presidents George Washington and Andrew Jackson, both slaveholders.
Bishop James Duke of the Liberation Christian Center said that the city should not honor slave owners in black communities, CBS Chicago reports.
A statue of Washington stands at the corner of 51st and King Drive, at the northwest entrance to Washington Park. Nearby Jackson Park has no similar statue, but is still named after the seventh president.
"When I see that, I see a person who fought for the liberties, and I see people that fought for the justice and freedom of white America, because at that moment, we were still chattel slavery, and was three-fifths of humans," Duke said. "Some people out here ask me, say ‘Well, you know, he taught his slaves to read.' That’s almost sad; the equivalent of someone who kidnaps you, that you gave them something to eat."
Duke doesn't think that the parks need to be totally renamed. Rather, he suggested the parks could be changed so that Washington Park memorialized Mayor Harold Washington, while Jackson Park could be named after civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson or singer Michael Jackson.
He insists that he is not trying to erase history, but allowing communities to determine their own heroes and who they choose to memorialize.
"I think we should be able to identify and decide who we declare heroes in or communities, because we have to tell the stories to our children of who these persons are," Duke said.
The bishop has sent letters to Emmanuel and the Chicago Park District requesting the name changes, a letter he shared on Facebook.