Savannah City Council votes to remove name of Calhoun Square

Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 3:59 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2022 at 10:09 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah City Council voted unanimously to remove the name of Calhoun Square.

The square was named after John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina native and a former vice president of the United States. A coalition has been heading the effort to change the name of Calhoun Square for years now over Calhoun’s stance on slavery.

Some say it’s changing history and others think it’s righting a wrong.

“If we truly want to do what’s decent and orderly, I suggest we do what this council can do today to bring us closer to closing the door on this part of history we care not to be a part of,” said Post 1 Alderwoman At-Large Kesha Gibson Carter.

Before council took a vote, the city of Savannah had their director of municipal archives talk about the history of the square and land surrounding it.

“Enslaved individuals or persons of color were allotted a separate, segregated, cemetery known as the negro burial ground. The land once occupied by the stranger’s burial ground is now occupied by a small portion of Calhoun Square, building lots where the Massie School was built and a part of the street between the two,” said Luciana Spracher, Savannah’s director of municipal archives.

That council at the time called him a “treasure of the south” and proceeded to drape the council chamber in black for 30 days for him.

Spracher said: “Upon news of Calhoun’s death, the previous year in 1850, Savannah’s City Council adopted a resolution stating that council “mourns over him.”

Calhoun didn’t have ties to Savannah and the mayor says he does not reflect who Savannah is.

“Whereas the mayor and alderman support the official removal of Calhoun’s name of the square situated at Abercorn and E. Wayne Street,” Mayor Van Johnson said.

So now, what once was John C. Calhoun will now be seen as the square “formerly known as Calhoun Square.”

“All in favor indicate by saying I...opposed?”

The coalition to rename the square after Susie King Taylor was also credited for the work they’ve done.

“It is only through their efforts and hard work for the tenure of our time on council... it has taken them over two years to get to this point,” said Alderwoman Gibson-Carter.

Mayor Van Johnson said the city will now begin the process of finding the new name for Savannah’s now unnamed square.

“This is a process that did not take place in 1851, but we have the opportunity to do it now. We won’t rush the process. We’ll take our time. We’ll hear the voices, we’ll research the names, the places, the concepts, it will go through the city’s process and then the city council will decide on a name.”

Mayor Johnson says the public will have the chance to weigh-in on what they want the square to be re-named.