On Saturday (June 11), officials with the D.C. Parks and Recreation announced their plans to rename a popular park after the Black family who owned the land the park was built on. Captain George Pointer was a former slave who helped build a local canal and federal buildings. Pointer’s family, the DCist reported, owned the land that was used to build an all-white school, known today as Lafayette Elementary School, and the park located behind it.
City officials, including DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, attended the renaming ceremony, officially unveiling the Lafayette-Pointer Recreation Center. The project to get the park name changed was initiated by Historic Chevy Chase DC, an organization on a mission to preserve the area’s historical value.
According to the report, the federal government seized Pointer’s family’s land through an eminent domain claim to cater to the then growing all-white neighborhood of Chevy Chase. Pointer’s family was paid a modern equivalent of $200,000, though historical experts say the payment was far below the true value of the land.
Historians Barbara Boyle Torrey and Clara Myrick Green are credited with discovering a letter written in 1829 by Pointer, which ultimately helped them find a living descendant, James Fisher.
The historians and Pointer’s family hope to raise national awareness about Pointer’s story and other Black families who first lived in the area.
“I had mixed feelings,” Fisher told the outlet, referring to after discovering his connection to Pointer and the park. “First was pride, of course. I’m so proud of my family. And I was upset about it,” Fisher said. “I discovered that there was a whole community of Black people scattered around in that area and they were all evicted.”
Fisher, along with the historians, hope to raise national awareness about Pointer’s story.
“My hope is that eventually the [National Museum of African American History and Culture] will take George Pointer’s 18th century letter from the National Archives and put it in their museum,” Torrey told the outlet.