SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – City leaders officially announced that they will be taking public comment on the renaming of what was previously called Calhoun Square in downtown Savannah.
Though John Calhoun had an accomplished career as vice president and secretary of war, he was a supporter of slavery. Last year, after receiving public comment, Savannah’s city council voted to remove Calhoun’s name, saying his legacy didn’t reflect the city’s values.
People have until May 15 to submit their ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, but for some members of the community, their choice is already gaining traction.
“Not only do I want the city of Savannah to recognize and say her name, I want the whole world to say her name: Susie Baker King Taylor,” said Rozz Rouse, a co-chair of the Coalition to name Taylor Square.
The Coalition to Name Taylor Square has spent years advocating for change in Savannah. In November, the group’s first goal was realized as the city removed the square’s signage, previously named after former vice president and supporter of slavery John C. Calhoun. Now, they’ve set their sights on the ultimate goal: seeing the square renamed after Susie King Taylor, who was born into slavery in Georgia and went on to be widely recognized as the first Black nurse of the Civil War.
The coalition says they couldn’t have gotten this far without the support of those surrounding the square.
“We do have, within our coalition, neighbors around that square that are a part of the original coalition, and they are the real heroes, they are the ones that gave us the 51% three times,” said Patt Gunn, a co-chair of the Coalition to name Taylor Square. “So, we will never talk about a victory with Susie King Taylor without talking about the contributions of those great neighbors around the square to say I want to rise in the morning and see a square that’s not named in honor of John C. Calhoun,”
Those living near the square have found solidarity with the movement.
“I said to the mayor, you know, the city’s known for its inclusion advocacy and for being a real strong proponent of civil rights. I just don’t understand how you continually want to hold up John C. Calhoun,” said Rev. Jamie Maury, a longtime resident near the square.
The city has some requirements for new name submissions: the person must be deceased, have made contributions that changed the community and have positively affected Savannah.
For the Coalition to Rename Taylor Square, they can’t think of a better choice.
“It’s like we can already see her standing there in her velvet cloak and the little beautiful cape, standing in that square,” said Gunn. “So people will learn all about her and her contributions to, not just Savannah, but the nation.”
The city of Savannah plans to host a public meeting in June to present the applications they’ve received and hopes to put their final votes in by September.