The south end of what was Runaway Negro Creek where it intersects with the Skidaway River and the Intracoastal Waterway in Savannah. The federal government in April approved a request to change the body of water’s name to Freedom Creek. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Georgia senator seeks historical marker at former ‘Runaway Negro Creek’

After scoring a victory when the federal government voted earlier this year to change the offensive name of a small body of water on Skidaway Island, a Savannah senator is looking to commemorate the creek’s history.

Formerly known as Runaway Negro Creek, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names voted in April to change the name of the 1.5-mile creek to Freedom Creek. Now state Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, is working with the Georgia Historical Society to install a marker noting the creek’s significance in Georgia history.

“This will make it not only a symbolic gesture, but also a gesture where people can come and learn about their heritage,” Jackson said.

Melvin Lindsey, regional vice president with Amerigroup Real Solutions in Healthcare, part of the health insurance company Amerigroup, has pledged to be a primary sponsor for the marker, which is expected to cost about $5,000.

Now that Jackson has secured funding, he said he plans to apply to the historical society to create the marker. If approved, it could be as late as October 2020 before the marker is installed.

Local historians say the creek got its former name because slaves from the Modena Plantation on Skidaway Island would escape and try to cross the water to Union-occupied coastal islands along the river during the Civil War.

The General Assembly last year passed Jackson’s legislation directing Georgia Archives officials to petition the federal government to rename the body of water. That petition was filed in December and approved in April.

Jackson said he sponsored the legislation because many local residents found the name of the creek to be culturally insensitive. Some found the word “Negro” itself to be insensitive, but Jackson said he was more concerned with the connotation “runaway” brings — that the slaves, as property, were acting criminally.

“What they were doing was seeking freedom,” he said.

A recent search on Google Maps shows the renamed “Freedom 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 www.ajc.com/politics.

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