Rest With Honor Project wants to rename two Savannah squares named after proponents of slavery

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 5:35 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - We’re learning of another effort to rename two Savannah squares where the remains of enslaved African people are believed to be buried.

Long before some of these homes and churches were built, Lauri Lyons, Executive Director of the Rest With Honor Project, says the land where Calhoun and Whitefield Squares sit was designated by the City as a burial ground for enslaved African people.

“There really is no full accounting of how many people were buried here. Because the City did not keep proper records as they had done with other burial grounds. So what we can sort of tell is that definitely burials we’re happening on top of burials within the space throughout the area,” said Lauri Lyons with Rest with Honor Project.

While some of those bodies were eventually moved to Laurel Grove South Cemetery, Lyons believes there are still remains beneath the squares. And because the squares are named after men who were proponents of slavery, Lyons believes it would be more appropriate for the squares to bear new names, Emancipation and Jubilee Squares. She’s also petitioning for the squares to be protected through the National Park Service or as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“People are used to names that they’re familiar with. And also people, some people feel like you can be erasing history, which is not the intention here. There can still be spaces named after Calhoun and Whitefield, but it’s not appropriate for those spaces to be in or connected to an African burial ground.”

Through the Rest With Honor Project, Lyons started petitions online that have hundreds of signatures calling for change. But the City also requires at least 51-percent of the property owners on the trust lots surrounding the squares to approve the re-naming.

“We’re asking for people to sign the petitions, especially the property owners. And it also requires this will to sort of shift your consciousness in that direction. So it’s really a matter of respect.”

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