February is Black History Month, a time to recognize the achievement of local African American heroes and heroines. We invite the public to celebrate by visiting one of the many parks and facilities named for Seattle’s African American leaders, and to learn about their contributions to the city.
Dr. Blanche Lavizzo Park
This park is a narrow strip that connects S Jackson St. and E Yesler Way. Its many oak, poplar and other trees create a shady oasis in the middle of a busy urban area. The park also features a large grassy area with picnic tables, grills, a shelter house and a small amphitheater used for concerts and plays. Dr. Blanche Lavizzo was Washington State’s first African American woman pediatrician. Dr. Lavizzo moved to Seattle in 1956 and served as the first medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in Central Seattle. Lavizzo and her husband left medical practices in New Orleans in order to pursue careers in the Northwest.
Sam Smith Park
In September 1998, the central portion of the I-90 lid was renamed Sam Smith Park to honor Seattle’s first African American City Councilmember. In the course of a political career that spanned 34 years, Sam Smith served five terms in the Washington State Legislature (the second black member) and five terms on the Seattle City Council. Smith represented the 37th district in Olympia beginning in 1958. One of his priorities in Olympia was promoting a bill that banned discrimination based on religion and race in the rental or sale of homes.
Sam Smith Park encompasses the largest and most central part of the I-90 lid. It has a play area for children, picnic tables and tennis courts. It is the site of Blue Dog Pond and the Urban Peace Circle, a sculpture by Seattle sculptor Gerard Tsutakawa, dedicated to children killed by gun violence in Seattle’s inner city.
Powell Barnett Park
This 4.4-acre park lies between East Alder and East Jefferson streets and was named for civil rights activist and community leader Powell Barnett in 1969. Barnett’s father, an ex-slave, was recruited to work in the coal mines in Roslyn, Washington in 1889. Barnett worked in the mines as a young man, but moved to Seattle in 1906 to explore other opportunities. He worked as a sub-foreman installing street car lines and later helped build downtown hotels. Barnett clerked for State Senator Frank Connor and served as a maintenance man at the King County Courthouse before retiring at age 71. Barnett is remembered for his passion to improve race relations in the city.
Flo Ware Park
This park offers a vibrant play area for children, and was named for Flo Ware, a community activist who was dedicated to social change in health care and education systems for the poor and elderly populations
Homer Harris Park
This park held its grand opening ceremony in 2005 to honor Dr. Harris E. Homer, a dominant athlete and physician. Homer began his athletic career at Garfield High School in the 1930s and later became an All-American football player at the University of Iowa. Because the National Football League was banning black players at the time of his graduation, Homer decided to pursue medical school and went on to become a prominent dermatologist in his hometown of Seattle.
This neighborhood playground in central Seattle memorializes Edwin T. Pratt, the founder of the Central Area Motivation Program and the Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center.
Walt Hundley Playfield
This community area includes soccer fields, tennis courts and baseball fields, and was named for Walter R. Hundley, the first African American superintendent for Seattle Parks and one of the first African Americans to head a major parks and recreation department in the United States. Hundley held his position from 1977 to 1988 and was instrumental to acquiring the High Point playfield that was later named after him.
Judge Charles M. Stokes Overlook
This beautiful green space and picnic area in the I-90 lid honors Charles Moorehouse Stokes. Stokes was elected to the Washington legislature in 1950 and served as the first black legislator from King County. He was appointed judge in 1968 and was the first black person on the King County District Court.
See Part 2 of this series here.