INDIANAPOLIS — 100 years ago, being Black in Indianapolis meant being blacklisted from several IndyParks except for one – Frederick Douglass Park. On Wednesday, people of all races and ages joined together to celebrate its history and look ahead to the future.
“This magnificent park and its dedicated staff is getting the recognition and 100th birthday celebration it deserves,” said Linda Broadfoot, Director of IndyParks.
The 43-acre park is located in the Martindale-Brightwood Community and was established in 1921. Back then, Martindale was a segregated community for African Americans. The addition of Frederick Douglass Park meant there was finally a park that not only welcomed Black residents and their families, but celebrated them, too.
“It was a safe haven, and it was community,” said Carmen Helms, a long-time resident of the neighborhood. “It was family here. You felt the love and you still feel the love here, so it was just a wonderful place to come.”
Helms said she has been coming to Frederick Douglass Park since she was just nine years old. Now, at age 68, she said she has grown to appreciate the lifeline that sits in the heart of the city’s near northeast side.
“This park symbolizes both the unconquerable spirit of community in Indianapolis, and at the same time, the inequity that has dominated our city’s development,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
Earlier this year, Mayor Hogsett announced his Circle City Forward initiative that included a $45 million public investment to revitalize the IndyParks. Frederick Douglass Park will receive nearly $20 million of that project for a makeover.
“From the new family center, to spaces for fitness, health meal preparations, games, activities, day camps, and so much more — Frederick Douglass Park is on track to being better than ever now,” said Zach Adamson, City-County Council Vice President.
Throughout the week, Indy Parks will host a series of community events to celebrate the centennial — like food pantries, fitness classes, and sports clinics. To attend any of the public events this week, you can visit here for a list of scheduled activities.