What’s in a name? Juliet Capulet will always remind us that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. While I appreciate the musings of Willy Shakes, naming conventions are so much more complicated. Looking at Shawnee, Chickasaw, and Algonquin Parks, named for the Native people who occupied this land prior to colonization, or the three main thoroughfares named for Dr. W. J. Hodge, Muhammad Ali, and Louis Coleman, who each nudged us toward becoming a more perfect Union, it’s clear. Winners not only write the history books, they get to name stuff, too. Often the story of how a thing receives its name gets lost and we begin to understand less of the narrative our ancestors intended to preserve.
As I wandered through Chickasaw, I happened upon Plato Terrace. The area is void of Socrates Way or Pythagoras Drive so I knew there had to be a local Plato with a story I needed to know.
Samuel Plato is an architect with 8 structures on the National Register of Historic Places and his influence can be seen all around Louisville. From Broadway Temple at 13th & Broadway to James Lee Presbyterian Church on Frankfort Avenue, we walk past Plato’s buildings everyday. He designed Simmons College, the Virginia Avenue School (now the West End School), and numerous homes meant to be both affordable and beautiful for everyday people.
We can attribute almost 40 post offices in Alabama, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia to him. Though Plato lives through his work, he is also honored by two historic markers in the West End. More than that, Samuel Plato can also be credited for establishing trade unions and architectural training for other Black Americans.
His legacy is built upon the ideals we hold most dear. Hard work, perseverance, and being the driving force of progress. As we finish celebrate Juneteenth and 4th of July take some time to remember the people who make America great. Those whose names are bestowed on parks, streets, expressways, and buildings. There are great stories surrounding their sense of urgency in creating the America we dream about. Use their names as more than a directional guide. They are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, who left a legacy we have to remember.