First Square In Savannah To Honor A Person of Color Is Named After A Black Woman
Savannah, the oldest city in Georgia, is making history. The city council voted to rename a downtown square in honor of a Black woman, Susie King Taylor.
According to KXAN, after nine months of the square remaining unnamed while City Hall received recommendations for a new name, Taylor was selected from a diverse set of candidates: a pastor, a civil rights leader, a woman who started Savannah’s preservation movement in the 1950s, and an Army special operations pilot.
Taylor is credited with formerly teaching enslaved people to read and write. Using her platform as a nurse for the Union Army, she established schools to teach emancipated children and adults. Before she died in 1912, she published a memoir about her life during the war, making her the only Black woman to do so, according to the outlet.
She is the first person of color to have one of the 23 squares in Savannah named after them. These spaces were typically named after prominent white men such as colonial founders and fallen war heroes. This square was named after John Calhoun, a former vice president who supported slavery before the Civil War.
The vote was made last November after determining Calhoun was not fit to hold the honor in a city that is 54% Black.
“It’s one thing to make history. It’s something else to make sense. And in this case, we’re making both,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said.
Mayor Van Johnson acknowledged that people in Taylor’s era “never would have fathomed” the five Black women who sit on the city council in Savannah, Georgia. There was pushback from some residents who did not support the decision.
A Black resident, David Tootle, filed a suit on the basis that the vote violated a 2019 Georgia law that protects Confederate memorials and public monuments. He argued Calhoun should not be stripped of his honor due to his service as vice president under two administrations even though his stance on slavery was wrong. “… We can’t erase somebody out of the history books and take their names off things because we don’t agree with them and thought they were bad,” Tootle said.
The square will have a marker explaining the square’s previous naming after former Vice President Calhoun. The mayor and council made the vote.