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Georgia City Strips Slavery Defender of 170-Year Honor

Savannah, Georgia Leaders of Georgia’s oldest city vote Thursday to strip the name of the former U.S. vice president and vocal slavery advocate from the public square named in his honor more than 170 years ago. did.

Planned in 1851, Calhoun Square was named for John C. Calhoun, a prominent politician from neighboring South Carolina. Calhoun served in Congress for several decades in Washington until his death in 1850, serving as Vice President under President John Quincy Adams and President Andrew Jackson.

Calhoun was also an outspoken supporter of slavery in the decades preceding the Civil War. It has been targeted by racial justice advocates seeking to remove it from the

The Savannah City Council voted unanimously to remove Calhoun’s name from the square at its Thursday afternoon meeting. The mayor said it could take a year for city officials to decide on a new name.

“John Calhoun had a phenomenal career as an American politician. In that regard, he’s a legend,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

“I think Mr. Calhoun’s views really promoted, supported and promoted slavery,” said Johnson, whose population is 54 percent black in Savannah.

Calhoun Square is one of the last of 20 public squares established between 1733 and 1851 in downtown Savannah’s historic district. Towering oak trees and blooming azaleas frame the central bench, while the square is surrounded by Greek Revival houses and his two urban landmarks—Wesley Monumentals. The United Methodist Church, dedicated in 1890, and the 1855 Massey Common School House, one of Georgia’s oldest public school buildings.

One block north is the Clary’s Café, a diner featured in author John Berendt’s 1994 bestseller, The Garden of Good and Evil at Midnight.

Before Savannah acted, the honor had been stripped from Calhoun in his home state of South Carolina. Charleston city officials dismantled Calhoun’s statue in his one on the square in 2020, and Clemson University removed his name from its honors colleges the same year.

In the early 1800s, Calhoun became known as the “Cast Iron Man” for his unwavering support for the rights of the Southern states. He called slavery a “positive good” and said in his speech on the Senate floor in the 1830s that slaves in the South were richer than free blacks in the North. Before his death in 1850, he led the South into secession with its pro-slavery “Calhoun Doctrine.”

Some people in Savannah opposed removing Calhoun’s name from the square. In this square, for a long time, billboards and metal plates embedded in brick walkways were printed in bold white letters.

Calhoun earned the honor through 40 years of service in Washington, said Andy Calhoun, a Savannah native who says he is descended from John C. Calhoun’s brother. John C. Calhoun served as Vice President in both houses of Congress, served as Vice President under two Presidents, and served as Secretary of War and Secretary of State.

“It’s obvious why the city of Savannah respected his political talents,” said Calhoun, 69.

He added: “I don’t understand why people are so eager to revise history.

Savannah Tour Guide Pat Gunn was one of the leading proponents of the Calhoun Square name change, one day when Tropical Storm Nicole brought gusty winds and occasional heavy rains to coastal Georgia, the council’s decision praised the

“It rained, so I think it will be a cleansing day,” said Gunn, a Savannah native and descendant of slaves.

For the past two years, Gunn has led a group of advocates calling for a new name for Calhoun Square.

A major stumbling block for this group was a city ordinance requiring a majority of the square’s owners to agree to the name change. Gunn said her coalition got the necessary signatures three times, only to see her supporters’ homes sold to new owners. This led to their name change petition being denied before city officials could take action.

Johnson and allies on the city council agreed on a workaround. Their vote on Thursday was only to remove Calhoun’s name from the plaza. He said it was

“I wouldn’t be mad if it took a year,” Johnson said in an interview.

The mayor asked the mayor of Savannah to remove the sign on the plaza with Calhoun’s name on it immediately. He said it should be called “the square formerly known as Calhoun his square” until a new name comes out.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

https://www.ksat.com/news/politics/2022/11/10/georgia-city-to-strip-slavery-advocates-name-from-plaza/ Georgia City Strips Slavery Defender of 170-Year Honor

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