By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
HSF to host free lecture on the making of Taylor Square
Taylor Square
The first of Savannah squares to bear the name of a Black woman, Liberty County native Susie King Taylor, was unveiled in February before hundreds of people. File photo

SAVANNAH – Historic Savannah Foundation will host a special discussion about “Susie King Taylor and the Making of Taylor Square” as part of the 2024 Historic Savannah Foundation Lecture Series, “The People, Places and Stories That Define Savannah,” on Thursday, June 20 at 6 p.m. at the historic Second African Baptist Church, located at 123 Houston Street. This event, which is presented in collaboration with the Davenport House Museum, is free and open to the public.

Organized in honor of Juneteenth, this lecture will feature Savannah master storyteller and grassroots public policy activist Patt Gunn, president and co-founder of the Susie King Taylor Center for Jubilee and co-chair of the Coalition to Rename Calhoun Square, who led a three-year campaign to rename Calhoun Square in honor of Susie King Taylor. Gunn will discuss her pivotal role in leading the effort to rename the square to honor and commemorate Taylor.

“We invite everyone to join us for a memorable evening at Second African Baptist Church featuring Patt Gunn and her successful efforts to rename a Savannah square in honor of Susie King Taylor,” said Historic Savannah Foundation CEO and President Sue Adler. “Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about Savannah’s ongoing narrative of growth and inclusion.”

Susie King Taylor was a nurse, teacher and barrier- breaking figure in Savannah’s history. Born into slavery in Liberty County in 1848, she moved to Savannah at the age of 7 to live with her grandmother and attended two secret schools run by free women of color.

By the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, Taylor was an educated young woman. She escaped to Union-occupied St. Simons Island at age 14, and broke barriers as an educator who openly taught Black children. Her accomplishments range from joining the Union Army to participating in military expeditions and camp life; nursing soldiers; teaching soldiers, women and children in the camps; running her own private day and night schools; and becoming an author with the publication of her book, “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33rd United States Colored Troops.”

After 170 years, the Savannah City Council voted to change the name of the square formerly named after John C. Calhoun, a former U.S. vice president who was an advocate for slavery. The square itself was once a burial ground for hundreds of enslaved Black Savannahians.

For nearly one year, the square sat unnamed. The Center for Jubilee, led by Patt Gunn, petitioned to change the name from Calhoun Square to Taylor Square in late 2022. Savannah City Council voted on the new name in October 2023. After a three-year fight, members of the Coalition To Rename Calhoun Square celebrated the official renaming on February 10, 2024. Hundreds gathered to make history in downtown Savannah as the square at Abercorn and Wayne streets was renamed Taylor Square. Gunn said she hopes that “this square should be a blueprint for future generations on a holistic history through civic engagement.”

Patt “Sistah Patt” Gilliard Gunn is the National Policy Fellow for the Truth Telling Project, truth-teller, master Gullah Geechee storyteller, co-founder of the Savannah-based Susie King Taylor Center for Jubilee and co-chair of the Coalition to Rename Calhoun Square.

Gunn is a Gullah Geechee “daughter of the soil of Savannah” and lectures about the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade in an online course at Harvard University with Dr. Dave Ragland, Ph.D., co-director of the Truth Telling Project. Her passion is sharing her history and culture, and her “soulcraft” is truth-telling, reconciliation, healing and repair from the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.

Gunn founded the Geechee Institute in 1992 and developed festivals, hosted lectures and spearheaded oral history projects for the community. She founded Underground Tours of Savannah in 2017, sharing the history of her ancestors and leading tours focused on Savannah’s African-American and Gullah-Geechee history. In 2023, a firsttime ever cultural heritage partnership was formed with her Underground Tours and Kelly/Gray Line Tours to host her signature tours. She is also the founder and artistic director of The Saltwata Players, a local folk art Gullah Geechee performance group.

For more information about the 2024 HSF Lecture Series, visit myhsf. org.

Sign up for our e-newsletters