Downtown Lexington park renamed Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park

Posted at 1:49 PM, Aug 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-29 13:53:43-04

A downtown Lexington park, which was once the site of slave auctions, will now bear the name of the successful Black entrepreneur born into slavery.

Lexington's Urban County Council voted Thursday to change the name of Cheapside Park to Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park.

"Today is also the fifty-seventh anniversary of the March on Washington," DeBraun Thomas, co-founder of 'Take Back Cheapside, said, standing in front of a house Tandy built.

"It's not a coincidence to me that this is the time that it happened," he continued.

Thomas and Russell Allen, a fellow musician, founded 'Take Back Cheapside' in July 2016, amid protests over high-profile police killings of Black men, including Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

Their efforts gained new momentum this summer, in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Protesters calling for racial justice in Lexington made a concerted effort to bring their demonstrations to Cheapside Park, where bars now line the strip that used to be occupied by slave auction blocks.

"There was a long period of time that I didn't feel welcomed in that space," Thomas said. "The energy there--it doesn't make you feel like you want to be there. It's not a place I'd ever want to go and party."

Going forward, the two men want the city to deliver a public apology for its role in the sale of slaves. They also plan on starting a dialogue about a potential redesign of the area.

"We want to bring in those voices of folks that are downtown protesting, of elders that have lived here their whole lives and have never been asked what they wanted," Allen explained.

And while they work to get others to acknowledge the pain inflicted on Black men and women in that space, they also want to use the park's new name to celebrate accomplishments born out of that pain.

"Mr. Tandy is just one of many people whose shoulders we stand on," Thomas said. "And he left a foundation that you can still feel in this city."

Born into slavery, Tandy grew up free and became a vital part of Lexington, working on the construction of many buildings in the city, including the Old Courthouse.

An unveiling of the signage reflecting the park's new name has yet to be announced.