For decades the legacy of John C. Calhoun loomed over the historic square in downtown Savannah, Georgia, that bore his name. Calhoun is probably best known for his fervent defense of slavery — making him an odd symbol for a majority Black city he had no connection with at all. Now, in a twist someone like Calhoun never could have seen coming, he’s set to be replaced by an emancipated Black woman.
On Thursday, the Savannah city council voted to rename the historic square after Susie King Taylor. It’s a historic moment for a number of reasons. Despite the abundance of city squares (23 to be exact), Taylor is the first person of color to have a Savannah square named after her.
“It’s one thing to make history. It’s something else to make sense. And in this case, we’re making both,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said, according to the AP.
The woman whose name will now adorn the square is fascinating in her own right. Although she was born into slavery in 1848, she later escaped. And at just 14 years-old, she become the first Black teacher to openly teach Black students in the state of Georgia.
Taylor’s accomplishments don’t stop there. She served as a nurse within the Union army and went on to become the first Black woman o publish a personal account of the Civil War, according to the American Battlefield Trust.
The campaign to get the square renamed after Taylor was years in the making. Patt Gunn, an activist and tour guide led the charge, arguing that someone like Taylor was a much better fit to represent the city
Now Taylor’s legacy of relentless perseverance will live on in one of the oldest cities in our nation.