July 28, 1908
Booker T. or George -- that is the question. Yesterday afternoon the board of park commissioners reached an almost final conclusion in the matter of North End playgrounds, accepting the council's recommendation that two plots instead of one be set aside, one for the whites and the other for the negroes. One plot chosen is that bounded by Holmes, Cherry, Missouri avenue and Fifth street, and the other is in Belvedere hollow for the most part, and bounded by Troost, Forest, Pacific and Belevedere streets. No estimate of the cost of the two blocks was furnished and the commissioners thought that $100,000 might defray the cost.
"We will have to get a name for them to put in the ordinance," suggested one of the board clerks.
"Certainly, certainly," granted President Franklin Hudson, looking southeast to where Commissioner George T. Hall was sitting.
"To be sure we will have to name them," the commissioner said, proud to rise to the occasion. "'Black' and 'White' would do fine."
President Hudson dropped a bundle of papers he had in his hands and Commissioners George M. Fuller and A. J. Dean hopped as though they were on hot bricks.
"That would never do," came from the chair. "Never do to get names like that," bespake Commissioner Fuller, while Commissioner Dean was wagging his head to beat the band, set in his ways though he almost always is. Flocking by himself was Commissioner Fred Doggett.
"I have a name," said this member, whereupon at once he was given the center of the stage.
" 'Lincoln' and 'Washington' would be appropriate, I think," he went on.
"Had it on my tongue to suggest those self-same two men myself," declared President Hudson, while Commissioners Fuller and Dean, from across the table, glared like frizzling martyrs at Commissioner Hall, who had 'riz the row.
" 'Lincoln' and 'Washington' make it," proposed one member of the board and all the other members, including Commissioner Hall, seconded the motion.
Then there was a lull and a newspaper man naturally asked which was which.
"Mercy, man," replied President Hudson, horror stricken, "we dassent decide that. All we have to do is to furnish playgrounds for the whites and for the negroes. We dassent say which shall be which."
"But you named them," was the protest. "Are the names indices?"
"The park in Belvedere hollow is to be known as 'Washington,' " was vouchsafed, which was a surprise. Negro institutions are generally known as Lincoln, and it had been taken for granted that the custom would be adhered to in the instance of naming the only Jim Crow park Kansas City has contemplated so far.
"Belvedere hollow park will be 'Washington,' " the president insisted.
Trying to see a connection, the president was asked by a colleague if the park was to be named for Booker T. or George Washington.
"Don't let that, get out at the start," was the caution, and the laughter of the austere president of the park board was so uproarious that Commissioner Dean remarked that "that must be a devil of a funny thing Hudson has just got off."
So, after three years of maneuvering and the consideration of seven sites, the North End playground scheme has got as far as the enabling ordinance in the council. Owing to the mixed colors in the north end of the city, it was feared that there would be conflicts in a single playground, minors being unlikely to keep their heads in moments of intensity. The dual plan was proposed, and yesterday was adopted by the park board.