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‘The Previous Name Has No Place in Our Society’: Georgia’s Runaway Negro Creek Finally Gets a New Name

The racist name of a Georgia creek has been approved to be replaced by a new title following a vote by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names last Thursday.

The USBGN decided on April 11 to change Runaway Negro Creek’s name to Freedom Creek, according to Savannah Morning News.

“I did not know at that time that it was a long process filled with a lot of red tape and a lot of different people had to get involved to make this measure pass,” Democratic Sen. Lester Jackson, who headed the change, told “The Commute” podcast Monday. “I need to thank Johnny Isakson, our U.S. senator, for his involvement. … Buddy Carter and Sanford Bishop, the congressman from west Georgia, for his involvement to make sure this resolution gets passed and we have a creek that reflects the struggles that happened in the 1800s.”

Runaway Negro Creek
State Sen. Lester Jackson spearheaded the push to rename Runaway Negro Creek. (Photo: Georgia State Senate)

“The previous name has no place in our society,” U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican, said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday. “I am very glad our community came together at the local, state and federal levels to make this happen.”

The news comes after Georgia Archives officials submitted an application for the USBGN to rename the body of water on Jan. 5. That move followed the initial proposal for the name change after a summer 2017 public interest meeting, a press release from Jackson noted. Residents of Jackson’s district complained that the name was culturally insensitive.

“We need to replace this antiquated symbol with one that is more representative of the events of the 1800s. We will be redefining history by shining a light on the events that transpired at Freedom Creek and honor the movement of freedom,” Jackson, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Georgia, said last year.

By February 2018, a unanimous bipartisan vote pushed the resolution through the Senate Urban Affairs Committee and it later passed the Georgia Senate and House. It got signed by then-Governor Nathan Deal in May 2018.

Runway Negro Creek was the name of the small body of water that runs along the edge of Skidaway Island State Park.

“It’s always been a part of life in this area,” said Savannah historian Jamal Touré, who teaches Africana studies at Savannah State University and leads African-American history tours, to the AJC in February 2018.

He said the creek’s prior name was given because of slaves from the Modena Plantation on Skidaway Island who would attempt
escape by crossing the water into coastal islands along the Skidaway River that were occupied by the Union during the Civil War.

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