Susie King Taylor square

Savannah, Georgia, To Rename Square Currently Honoring Enslaver

Savannah, Georgia, is renaming an area of its city formerly known as Calhoun City Square after a two-year fight to rename it.

An activist group founded by Patt Gunn and Rosalyn Rouse called the Center for Jubilee, Reconciliation, and Healing started pushing for the square to be renamed for Susie King Taylor in 2021, as reported by the Savannah Morning News.

The members of the Center for Jubilee, Reconciliation, and Healing group felt it was time for his name to be taken off the square.

In an observance ceremony at the group’s Jubilee Freedom Day in 2021, Gunn and Rouse began their call to remove Calhoun’s name by noting that the square was near a burial ground for enslaved people and as an enslaver, Calhoun’s name remaining on the square was not right.

The process to rename the square was not direct: any potential name had to be accompanied by a letter of support from either Mayor Van Johnson, Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter, Alderwoman Alicia Miller Blakely, or Alderman Detric Leggett.

This square, which was laid out in 1851, was named in honor of John C. Calhoun, a United States Senator from South Carolina, who served as vice president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. According to the University of South Carolina, Calhoun, who was born in 1782 and died in 1850, was a slaveholder and a staunch defender of slavery.
The pair began attempting to collect signatures from surrounding property owners, as was required by the city’s renaming process, but were thwarted by people who wanted Calhoun’s name to remain on the square.
They were unable to meet the signature threshold, but the Savannah City Council voted to remove Calhoun’s name from the square. According to The Current, Susie King Taylor is a favorite for the renaming, with the Savannah City Council favoring it among a field of five finalists.

Taylor was an ex-enslaved person who became a teacher of formerly enslaved people and an Army nurse for the Union during the Civil War. If her name is chosen, King will become the first woman and non-white person to have a Savannah city square named in her honor. Later in August, the council is expected to take a final vote and decide on who gets the square named after them.

In addition to Taylor, the Savannah Park and Tree Commission recommended the Creek Tribe of Native Americans who occupied the land before it was colonized by the British; George Leisle, a pastor born in Virginia who founded First African Baptist Church, considered to be one of the oldest Black churches in America; W.W Law, a Savannah-born Black civil rights leader who led local activist efforts in Savannah during the 1950s and 1960s; and “The Seven Sisters,” a group of women who spurred the city’s efforts at preserving local historical landmarks.

Rossie Norris, a Savannah area educator, said at the public portion of the meeting that naming the square after Taylor would be a great satisfaction to her: “A lot of Savannah’s enslaved history has been erased from this beautiful city,” Norris explained. “My thoughts are that this would be an amazing way to give credence to an African American shero.”

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