In Dallas, A Dispute Over How To Remember Segregated Parks

Historical markers are supposed to tell the history of public parks’ Jim Crow past. But some say their version of history is whitewashed.

By Alain StephensFebruary 19, 2016 10:59 am| , ,

For the last four decades, February has been set aside to the remember the culture, heritage, and accomplishments of African-Americans. Part of that endeavor revolves around people and events that are oft forgotten, requiring historians to breathe new life into these untold stories.

Much of the scrutiny revolves around not only uncovering these stories, but how they are being told – events often mired in America’s ugly history with racism. North Texas residents voiced concern that a series of historically segregated parks have been whitewashed of their Jim Crow-era roots.

Staff writer Melissa Repko explored these “Negro parks” for the Dallas Morning News. She says that a recent renovation of the parks sparked interest in their history.

“A couple of years ago, one of the historically black parks that was segregated decades ago was redone,” Repko says. “It’s now in a neighborhood that’s mostly white … and that inspired some interest in the parks, and how they were segregated originally.”

Two local foundations decided to donate money for historical markers for the parks. But some in the community thought that the markers were telling a sanitized history of the ugly reality of segregation.

“The two artists that were involved with researching and coming up with the design and the content for the historical markers say that the foundations have steered clear of some of the more unpleasant parts of the parks history,” Repko says.

Now, the foundations have pulled out of the project, leaving artists Cynthia Mulcahy and Lauren Woods to secure the funding themselves in order to complete the project in a way that they say is more historically accurate.

“Lauren and Cynthia feel pretty confident they’ll be able to raise $30,000,” Repko says. “They said its kind of way to get the public to buy into the project and potentially get even more interest and talk about uglier parts of Dallas’ past.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.