The south end of Runaway Negro Creek where it intersects with the Skidaway River and the Intracoastal Waterway near Savannah. Savannah-area residents want the official name of a creek on Skidaway Island to be changed from Runaway Negro Creek to Freedom Creek. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

LOCAL UPDATE: Feds will review Georgia’s request to change ‘offensive’ creek name

Georgia Archives officials have petitioned the federal government to change the name of a small body of water on Skidaway Island that some find offensive.

Georgia lawmakers approved a resolution in March calling for Runaway Negro Creek to be renamed Freedom Creek. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the legislation in May.

Archives officials sent the petition Dec. 21, nearly eight months after the agency was directed to make the request. Archives officials did not say why it took so long.

Jennifer Runyon, a researcher with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, said now that the board has the petition, the department will investigate making the change. The board is tasked with maintaining uniform usage of geographic names across the country.

The research will include contacting Chatham County government and any nearby Native American tribes before making a ruling. Georgia Archives officials plan to submit additional background materials by Jan. 5, according to an email from the department.

Runyon said the board, which is affected by the partial shutdown of the federal government, likely won’t make a ruling until the spring.

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.

Local historians say the creek is named after slaves from the Modena Plantation on Skidaway Island who escaped during the Civil War and tried 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 farther 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.

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

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