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Hugh MacCrae III meets with organizers of petition pushing to rename namesake park

Updated: Jul. 3, 2020 at 12:46 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The great grandson of the man for whom Hugh MacCrae Park is named after met with the women who are on a mission to change the name of the county park.

Beth Markesino, a local community activist and Sonya Patrick, head of the local Black Lives Matter movement, created the petition about a month ago. Over 16,600 people have signed the petition to change the name so far.

On Tuesday, Hugh MacRae III met with Markesino and Patrick.

MacRae is well aware that his great grandfather, a white supremacist who was one of the leaders of the 1898 Wilmington massacre, deeded the property to the county decades ago with requirements that no colored people (as black people were referred to back then) be allowed in the park which is why he says he wanted to have a conversation with Markesino and Patrick.

“We have an opportunity for understanding, empathy, and compassion,” MacRae said.

While he says he cannot speak for other descendants of Hugh MacRae, he says he’s open to having conversations about a painful past that’s still evident today.

‘It was a racist, segregated society, so I’m not as judgmental because that’s how white people lived,” MacRae says. “I think racism is a huge issue in this country, but we’re all in this together.”

Markesino and Patrick said their meeting with MacRae went very well.

“Hugh was genuinely concerned about the future of Wilmington bringing a divided community together when I addressed the racial disparities in this city,” Patrick said. “The meeting gave new hope that the past will not be apart of our future. We are stronger together as a community.”

Patrick shared stories about her Wilmington ancestry. MacRae said he was enlightened. Markesino was, too.

“Listening to my friend Sonya tell her family’s history to Hugh MacRae III dating back to the 1800’s is something that I will never forget,” Markesino says. “Sonya explained to Hugh how these monuments and park names affected herself and her community. I am grateful that I was able to be part of this discussion. I look forward to what’s ahead for Wilmington.”

Any decision to change the park’s name would have to come from county leaders. They say they will wait until a new diversity chief is hired to discuss the possibility of changing the name. That position is expected to be filled by August.

For a look at the petition, click here.

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