The south end of Runaway Negro Creek intersects with the Skidaway River and the Intracoastal Waterway in Savannah. Gov. Nathan Deal in May signed Senate Resolution 685, which instructs the Georgia Archives to inform the U.S. Board on Geographic Names that the state would like to change the name to Freedom Creek. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Feds still await Georgia request to change name of Runaway Negro Creek

Georgia lawmakers took steps this spring to rid a small body of water in the Savannah area of a name some find offensive.

Nearly eight months later, state officials have yet to petition the federal government to change the name of Runaway Negro Creek on Skidaway Island to Freedom Creek.

Gov. Nathan Deal in May signed Senate Resolution 685, which instructs the Georgia Archives to inform the U.S. Board on Geographic Names that the state would like to change the name. The board is tasked with maintaining uniform usage of geographic names across the country.

As of this week, federal officials said that request had not come.

“We have not yet received the official state resolution or the state action for the proposal to change the name over in the Savannah area,” said Jennifer Runyon with the Board on Geographic Names.

Runyon said she spoke with officials at the state archives on Monday who promised the request would be sent “before the end of the year.”

State Sen. Lester Jackson, a Savannah Democrat, sponsored the legislation because he said many local residents found the name of the creek to be culturally insensitive.

Jackson said he was disappointed the state has not yet sent the request to change the name.

“The wishes of the General Assembly were passed last session, and now we’re beginning a new session,” he said. “Our state department should be more vigilant in their pursuits.”

Representatives from the state archives did not respond to a request for comment. In September, Deputy State Archivist Steven Engerrand said the department was completing research to present to the federal naming board.

Local historians say the creek is named after slaves from the Modena Plantation on Skidaway Island who would escape during the Civil War and try to cross the water to Union-occupied coastal islands along the river.

A search on Google Maps shows the creek north of the state park on Skidaway.

The shallow creek, surrounded by marsh, snakes its way down from a curve of the Skidaway River near Isle of Hope to a spot further south on the same river. When the tide is high, boaters use the cut-through to avoid having to adhere to the Isle of Hope Marina’s no-wake zone.

Once the official request is received, the federal board members will obtain input from county officials and any nearby Native American tribes before making a ruling. The process could take several months.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/politics.

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