SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The City of Savannah City Council voted on Thursday unanimously to rename Calhoun Square.
The removal process began immediately. City workers removed the Calhoun Square signage within an hour of the vote, according to a resident who lives nearby the square. Workers also dug up the block from the bricks in the walkway at the square.
The square had been named after Calhoun for more than 170 years.
“We will begin a deliberate thorough, expansive and inclusive conversation about what the city’s now unnamed square should be named,” Mayor Van Johnson said. “And this is a process that did not take place in 1851, but we have an opportunity to do it now.”
Johnson said the city will not rush the process and will conduct extensive research and hear suggestions.
“John C. Calhoun does not reflect what Savannah is,” Johnson said.
The effort to rename the square was started by a coalition back in early 2021. It’s named after former Vice President John C. Calhoun, who also was a slave owner.
Reaction to the decision was mixed, with some people WSAV talked to saying the name represents history however dark it may be and others seeing it as a long-awaited and necessary change.
“This is the 21st century, and I don’t want my money as a taxpayer to pay for an image that offends anyone, not just an African American story, but any image in a public square that offends another people, we should not support that with our tax dollars,” Patt Gunn said.
For Gunn who’s a long-time proponent of this cause, there are feelings of pride Friday.
“There are over 300 cities around the nation that have taken him down, and my beloved city has joined that group so I’m proud of Savannah,” Gunn said.
Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter suggested the square be named after Susie King Taylor.
Born into slavery in Liberty County, Taylor made her mark as a civil war laundress, freedom-fighting nurse, teacher, and social justice advocate. She also opened schools in Savannah and Midway, during a period when education was denied to Black people.
“There are no squares in our beautiful city named after women,” Marc Henley, a part of The Rename Calhoun Square Coalition. There are no squares in our beautiful city named after African Americans. There are no squares in our beautiful city named after people who had been slaves.”
A couple of weeks ago, the council heard public comments about the possible renaming.
“And I am the descendant of those enslaved downtown,” one resident told the city council on Oct. 27. “At both Whitfield and Calhoun Square. And so, since Calhoun is not a local boy and he’s from the state of South Carolina. We think we should send them back.”