Lakeland hears case for naming Lake Wire's Freedom Park after Buffalo Soldiers

Image 1 of 8

There's a push in Lakeland for the city to change the name of Freedom Park to Buffalo Soldiers Park.

Richard Wilder of Buffalo Soldiers Florida says the famed African American soldiers camped on the banks of Lake Wire in the spring of 1898.

They were awaiting transport to Cuba to fight in the Spanish American War.

"When they escaped slavery, they didn’t know how to read and write, the majority of them, but they had goals," said Wilder. "They wanted freedom, not only for themselves, but for others,"  

There's a historical marker dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers on the north end of the lake, but Wilder believes the name of the large, waterfront park on Lake Wire along Florida Avenue should be changed to honor them.

"If you have the name Freedom Park, that doesn't do justice to the soldiers who encamped here because they couldn't even buy a cold drink," said Wilder. 

Jim Crow laws enforced racial segregation. The Buffalo Soldiers served the nation, but they were excluded because of their race.

Wilder asked city commissioners Monday to change the name of the park. He said he doesn't know if they'll do it, but he wants his idea to be heard.

"When we talk about this it helps Lakeland and it also keeps the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers alive,"  he said. 

Several commissioners said they want more recognition for the Buffalo Soldiers around Lake Wire, but there was no decision Monday on whether to change the name of the park.