The impossible is always possible. On November 10, 2022, the Savannah City Council in Georgia unanimously voted to remove John C. Calhoun’s name from one of the City’s historic squares. The vote represents a triumphant victory for the enslaved and free Black people buried beneath the square, their descendants living throughout the African Diaspora, and the people who support democracy and racial justice in America.
All the secrets of the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight. In July 2020, Lauri Lyons began to formally research and investigate the existence of the Old Negro Burying Ground and its surrounding history. During the research process, she learned the 258-year-old unmarked burial ground does exist and is located in Savannah’s Historic Downtown District, surrounded by landmarked buildings.
The truth is always revealed. The Old Negro Burying Ground is partially located, beneath Calhoun Square and Whitefield Square. John C. Calhoun was an infamous politician who vehemently advocated for slavery and organized acts of genocide against Black and Indigenous people. Calhoun’s racist philosophies laid the groundwork for the American Civil War and continues to influence America’s social and political discourse today. Rev. George Whitefield was a religious icon, slave owner, and prolific lobbyist for legalizing slavery in Georgia.
It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit. In August 2020, Lauri Lyons launched a Change.org petition to remove Calhoun’s name from the square. The petition was an act of faith that led me to found the Rest With Honor Savannah Initiative, which gathered petition signatures and created public awareness and programs about the burial ground, John C. Calhoun and Rev. George Whitefield.
Amid darkness, light persists. This journey has not been easy or pleasant. It has been an extraordinary experience that catalyzed transformation for theancestors, myself and the City of Savannah. A shift in consciousness and policy has occurred. Mission accomplished!
THANK YOU for your petition signatures, encouragement, and participation. Please continue to support additional Rest With Honor Projects. The best is yet to come!
The Savannah African Art Museum has been instrumental in gathering petition signatures for the renaming of the squares and supporting the mission of commemorating the burial ground. Official supporter since November 2020.
Alderman Kurtis Purtee (Savannah City Council Member) "Cultural preservation is vital in Savannah. I applaud the work that you do, and I support your efforts to preserve our history and tell our history. I hope this letter of support is the first of many that assist Rest With Honor's initiative to rename the squares and promotes cultural preservation by telling the story of the Savannah Negro African Burial Ground." - excerpt from May 2021 letter.
Patrick L. Riley (Savannah raised award winning author, producer, and pop culture analyst for Oprah Winfrey, OWN, NBC, Wendy Williams, Essence, BET and CREW TV.) "I find your outreach regarding my hometown's rich history and your Rest with Honor Savannah initiative compelling and worthy to be explored and activated. Indeed, it is important to ensure the stories of our forefathers and foremothers are told, and their burial grounds be identified and honored as an inclusive part of Savannah's rich, diverse, and sometimes unsung, history." - excerpt from July 2021 letter.
Georgia Public Broadcasting The Square With No Name November 2022
WTOC TV 11 Savannah City Council Removes Name of Calhoun Square November 2022
WTOC TV 11 Interview June 2021
Savannah Tribune June 2021
Savannah African Art Museum Video Interview February 2021
The Savannahian Newspaper November 2020
Beloved Journal Podcast November 2020
Duggal November 2020
Savannah Tribune October 2020
W. Eugene Smith Fund 2021 named Lauri Lyons as a finalist for the 25th annual Howard Chapnick Grant. The grant is presented to an individual or organization to strengthen leadership in any field ancillary to photojournalism, such as picture editing, research, education, management, and whose efforts support the work of photographers. July 2021.
Rest With Honor's Juneteenth Light Vigil in Calhoun Square. June 2021.
Lauri Lyons + Savannah African Art Museum's Juneteenth Celebration. June 2021.
Rest With Honor renaming of the squares petition signatures submitted to the Savannah City Manager's Office May 2021.