Hadley Park, located adjacent to Tennessee State University, has been a fixture of the African American community for generations. Joshua Lipscomb, a local activist, wants to change the name to Malcolm X Park.
“[Hadley Park] was named after a slave owner,” said Lipscomb. “He lived on the site of the park and the slave plantation was actually adjacent to it at TSU.”
According to Lipscomb, when he discovered that the park (which is so iconic to the African American community) was named after a slave owner, he felt “disrespected, humiliated, and bamboozled.”
“It felt almost as if they put a park in a Jewish neighborhood and named it after a Nazi,” he said.
“Once I found out I said, ‘we need to get this changed to a name that is huge in our community and actually means something, and maybe spark a movement in Nashville.’”
Lipscomb says he chose the name of Malcolm X, rather than a local African American hero because he felt that “naming the park after the revolutionary would bring a celebration and upliftment of our culture in general, not just locally.”
Lipscomb said that he is not completely opposed to changing the name of the park to a figure that is less controversial, but he feels very strongly about Malcolm X.
“I think it would be powerful replacing a slave owner with a liberator/revolutionary like Malcolm X. I think that act alone is a symbol and a message to everyone in the city.”
Lipscomb obtained over 500 signatures from area residents and says he was disappointed when he went before the Metro Parks board to request a change.
A historical marker says that the park was originally part of the John L. Hadley plantation, and is either named after John Hadley or the pioneer African American physician Dr. W.A. Hadley.
“I gave my speech and told them about the history of the park and debunked the popular rumor that it was named after a Black guy,” he said.
Lipscomb says that they didn’t even consider his case, with the chairman citing that the law says they cannot change the name of a park as they quickly moved on to other business.
“I felt undermined. There are cases smaller than this that they at least give consideration. I told them about rules they had back in the day, like Blacks couldn’t use the White bathroom; Blacks caught reading would be murdered; or women couldn’t vote, [and that] sometimes we need to bend the rules for the sake of humanity, morality and decency.”
Lipscomb says the next step for him is filing an appeal and taking the parks board to court to oppose the ruling.
According to Lipscomb, the councilman for the area, Ed Kindle, approves of a name change for the park.
“He agrees that we should change the name. Whatever the community wants, he wants.”
Once given permission to change the name, Lipscomb and Kindle are planning to have community meetings to get input on whether or not to change the name, and if so, what the name should be.
According to Lipscomb, everyone in the community agrees that the name should be changed, but “some of those in our community are for a local person as opposed to Malcolm X.”
“Once we get the official ‘you can change the name,’ we can go to the community and get their vote.”
The change, Lipscomb believes, will be Malcolm X.