It is only fitting that the eyes of Elias Brown Holloway and his wife Hattie will gaze outward in perpetuity at the park he was instrumental in bringing to life.
A new mural of the Holloways was unveiled at the Welcome Center in Unity Park on Friday, June 17 during the city of Greenville’s Juneteenth celebration. It was a chance for community members to come together not only to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States but also to celebrate the legacy of Greenville’s forbearers who shaped the city we know today.
Holloway was one such man. A beloved teacher, school principal, Methodist deacon and the first Black mail carrier in the city, he and his wife Hattie raised nine children in the racially segregated era of the 1920s and ’30s.
In the early 1920s, when the city of Greenville approved the creation of Cleveland Park, it also set aside funding to buy 15 acres on Mulberry Street to built a park for the Black families who were banned from playing at Cleveland Park due to segregation. Mayberry Park would go on to open to the public in 1925, but soon the city began to strip portions of the park away from the Black residents.
In 1935, the city used a piece of land in the park as a shooting range for the police department, firing live rounds of ammunition near where children were playing. In 1938, half of the park was reclaimed to build an all-white minor league baseball park, Meadowbrook Park.
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In response, Holloway defied the racial boundaries of socialization, doing so at great risk, and petitioned City Council for a true park for the Black children and residents of Greenville. When rebuked, he wrote a letter to the editor to the Greenville Piedmont Newspaper in March of 1939, stating, “We want the park because we need it. We want the park because our social and recreational life is at stake. Give us a park.”
After being denied once by City Council, Holloway recruited members of the white business community and finally received a promise from the city that such a park would be built.
It took eight more decades for that promise to be fulfilled with the opening of Unity Park.
“He was determined,” said Bryant Owens, great grandson of Holloway. “He could’ve easily said the first time, ‘I’m out,’ but he didn’t. He came back. He said, ‘We’ve got to do this.’ They were persistent… and I think that’s a statement to everyone, particularly him, having that diligence and determination to get it done.”
To see the mural in person, visit the Welcome Center at Unity Park, located at 111 Welborn St, Greenville.