The City of Savannah will dedicate Taylor Square, formerly known as Calhoun Square, on Saturday with a day-long event and sign unveiling for Liberty County native Susie King Taylor.
The community celebration will begin at 11 a.m. with a dedication ceremony that will feature several speakers, musical acts, and clergy. Around noon, city officials and community members will unveil the new Taylor Square sign.
The streets around Taylor Square will be closed to vehicle traffic from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Among the speakers Saturday will be Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette and Hermina Glass-Hill, director of the Susie King Taylor Institute.
“This will be a momentous day for Savannah and for our nation,” Mayor Van Johnson said. “For the first time in our 290-year history, we will have a square name honoring a person of color, a woman, and a formerly enslaved person. I am proud of the work that has been done by our community and the Savannah City Council to adequately honor those who have too often been forgotten by history books. We’re excited for the unveiling event. We invite everyone to join us as we continue to make history.”
From noon to 2 p.m., a community celebration will be held in the square featuring local musical acts, dancers, as well as educational tables. In the evening, beginning at 6 p.m., there will be a reflection with libations and music.
In the first meeting of 2024, Savannah City Council approved the installation of a granite marker in Taylor Square that will note that the square was once named for U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun, who was a staunch supporter of slavery and will now be named for Taylor.
In November 2022, a vote approved removing Calhoun’s name from the square. Following nearly a year-long process engaging the community, Savannah City Council members voted in October 2023 to rename the square in honor of Susie King Taylor.
Taylor, born into slavery on an Isle of Wight plantation, moved to Savannah at 7 years old to live with her grandmother. She attended two secret schools operated by Black women and in April 1862, fled to Union-controlled St. Simons Island. There, she became the first Black teacher openly teaching other Blacks in Georgia.
“We are going to make sure they know she was born in Liberty County,” Lovette said.
She married Edward King, a Black Union officer, in 1862 and moved with his regiment throughout the war, working as a nurse, laundress and teacher. After the war, she started a private school for freedmen’s children in Savannah.
After her husband’s death, she moved to Boston and married Russell Taylor. Eventually, she wrote “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops, Late 1st S.C. Volunteers” in 1902, becoming the only African American woman to publish a memoir of her wartime experiences.
Taylor died in 1912.