DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga. - Many people do not know Douglas County in Georgia was originally named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
The county, 30 miles west of Atlanta, is exploding with growth and its demographics are changing. In fact, the county's 140,000 residents just elected its first ever African-American commission chair. Dr. Ramona Jackson Jones said she ran on a platform of transparency and diversity. She is pleased to know the place she calls home, initially honored freedom fighter Douglass when the county was formed in 1870.
“To realize and see that this county was named after Frederick Douglass, tells me that we were prepared for diversity many years ago,” Dr. Jackson Jones said with pride.
Douglas County was created right after the Civil War ended and Reconstruction was underway. During that period many African Americans were serving in the Georgia legislature. They decided to name the large 201-square-mile area, that was sparsely populated, Douglass to ensure the Reconstruction lawmakers would passed the measure. It is a fact that fascinates at least one Georgian.
“I am the great, great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass. My full name is Nettie Washington Douglass,” Douglass heir Nettie Washington Douglas said with pride.
However, the Frederick Douglass name was only temporary. When Confederate Democrats expelled the Reconstruction lawmakers, they regained power and changed the county name to honor Stephen A. Douglas, the Illinois Senator who lost the presidency to Abraham Lincoln. The new honoree only had one “s” in his name. The county is still named for Stephen Douglas today.
The Douglass family has an idea that they believe should be heard.
“I would love to see it changed back. I really would. A couple of Douglas County residents have approached me wanting to change the name back as well,” Washington Douglass said.
“While possibly changing it back may be something that can't be done, I think that it should be noted somewhere on a plaque on the Douglas County Government Building, acknowledging that it was originally for Frederick Douglass,” Washington Douglass hopes.
The new commission chair said in keeping with her platform of transparency and diversity, she is willing to listen.
“It would be something worth discussing. That is something worth thinking about,” Dr. Jackson Jones said.
Ms. Washington Douglass said she will soon make a trip to the county commission meeting to begin floating the idea.