City Cast

What Do I Call It? Malcolm X or Meridian Hill Park?

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on May 22   |   Updated on June 5
Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park on one of the first warm days of spring. (Kaela Cote-Stemmermann/City Cast DC)

Malcolm X/Meridian Hill Park on one of the first warm days of spring. (Kaela Cote-Stemmermann/City Cast DC)

This park has long sat as a centerpiece, both literally and figuratively in the D.C. community. From protests and concerts, to hammock slingers and first dates, this stretch of grass has seen it all. But, the debate over what the park is actually called is a delicate question.

What’s the official name? If you want to get technical about it, The National Park Service, which oversees the park, calls it Meridian Hill Park. So does Wikipedia, Google Maps, and many news outlets.

It was named by the owner of the land in the 1800s as it sits directly on the longitudinal meridian of D.C. Later, Mary Foote Henderson evicted the working class Black people living there to create the renaissance-style park we know today. However, many locals refer to it exclusively as Malcolm X Park.

Why do we call it Malcolm X Park? The nickname originated with Angela Davis, who, at a 1969 rally, called for the park to be named as a memorial to Malcolm X. He’d organized many movements there. Later, Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, D-NY, tried to change the name officially, but could never get it passed Congress.

However, the name stuck informally, and the park continued as a hub of Black activism for decades, including the Black Panthers rallies and the old annual African Liberation Day and Malcolm X Day.

What should I call it? That is completely up to you! In a casual internet poll in 2014, Popville found that 71% of respondents called it Meridian Hill, while 15% referred to it as Malcolm X, and the rest went between the two. In this newsletter, we primarily refer to it as Malcolm X Park unless referring to it in the context of the NPS.

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