116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - An Iowa City park has been renamed after James Alan McPherson, the first Black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and a longtime faculty member at the Writers' Workshop.
The Iowa City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to rename Creekside Park to James Alan McPherson Park. The renowned author lived in Iowa City and died in 2016 at the age of 72.
'I think Mr. McPherson is well-deserving,” said Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague. 'He was all about community. ... I think this is a great honor, and I'm so happy the city of Iowa City had the opportunity to vote to name this park after him.”
According to a New York Times obituary, McPherson was born in Savannah, Ga., on Sept. 16, 1943. He attended segregated schools and earned his bachelor's degree from Morris Brown College in 1965. After graduating from Harvard Law School, McPherson enrolled at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.
McPherson wrote two story collections, 'Hue and Cry” and 'Elbow Room.” He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1978 for 'Elbow Room” and joined the Writers' Workshop faculty in 1981. That same year, McPherson was among the first 21 recipients of 'genius awards” from the MacArthur Foundation.
The park renaming was born out of the city's efforts last summer to address the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement. McPherson was specifically mentioned as an individual to be considered for a park name.
The city council received 15 emails supporting the McPherson proposal, according to Juli Seydell Johnson, parks and recreation director.
Roger's Green, a small park area in the Longfellow neighborhood - where McPherson lived - was initially recommended to be renamed. Other community members called for a larger and more well-known park to honor McPherson, Seydell Johnson said.
The park, at 1856 Seventh Ave. Court, is easily viewed from Muscatine Avenue. Renovation work on the park was completed last year, and it now features a new playground, shelter, basketball court and restroom.
New signage and a memorial plaque will be installed at the park this summer, the city said.
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