Celebrating Black History

Indy’s Douglass Park turns 100; community reflects on legacy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Douglass Park has been a centerpiece of the Martindale-Brightwood community. Named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, it was created as a safe recreational place for Black people when they weren’t allowed to go anywhere else.

Even today there’s a lot of value in feeling safe in your community. For generations Douglass Park provided that. Community members said back then more people followed the idea: it takes a village to raise a child. And Douglass Park provided the village.

There are memories and a legacy buried deep in the Douglass Park’s soil. For 100 years now, it has taken root in young people, making them a part of it’s rich history.

“Our kids have enjoyed playing in there and studying there and having projects there in the center,” said Friends of Douglass Park president Frankie Casel-Baker. “So Douglass Community Center, Douglas community park is the centerpiece of Martindale-Brightwood to me.”

Casel-Baker moved to the area in 1971. She raised her children in the community. She said despite everything going on in the world around her, the park was a safe haven.

“We never experienced any kind of racism. And maybe it’s just the way everything was set up. Because like I said Douglass is like your own home.”

Five years after Douglass Park opened, came the golf course in 1926.

“Black people, that’s the only place we could play. So we had to have somewhere to play so that’s where we played,” said golf course manager Glenn Bradley.

It became a meeting place not just for the Black community but Black celebrities. Some of the most notable: 1937-1949 Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis, and a young golf phenom: Tiger Woods.

“After Tiger came on the scene golf just exploded for Black folks. Because everybody wanted to be Tiger Woods, including me,” he said.

Today the golf course manager said it’s one of the popular courses in town because of it’s accessibility. But also, maybe because of it’s legacy.

“They named it right. Frederick Douglass,” said Casel-Baker.

As in everything, the pandemic created some changes, but as of now a celebration to recognize the 100th anniversary is set for this summer.