I love Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. Right there, just a few blocks west of Hennepin Avenue, right south of one of the Twin Cities’ great bicycle expressways, sits this nice round lake, the biggest jewel of the chain of lakes that grace the lovely western side of Minneapolis. Forget staying at a motel out on the freeway; when we visited the Cities last month, we stayed at an Airbnb apartment just two blocks from Lake of the Isles and six blocks from Lake Calhoun. Beautiful!
But it never occurred to me that Lake Calhoun is named for John C. Calhoun, the South Carolina Senator, proponent of slavery, and progenitor of a rabid states’ rights conservatism that led his fellow Southerners to betray the Union and spark the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in the Civil War:
Want to know who John C. Calhoun is? He’s the guy who quit as second in line to the president to make sure slaves stayed slaves.You heard me. He was the living, breathing number one crusader for slavery.To Commissioner Bourn, that isn’t right.”I think Minneapolitans and Minnesotans have a different set of values than what — when you really think about it — the name of Lake Calhoun represents,” [Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner Brad] Bourn said.
The namesake is even worse to former Park Board Commissioner Mary Merrill Anderson.
“Is that what we want to honor? In our community? Is that what we want to say is important to us? I think not,” Anderson said [Jana Shortal, “Push to Change the Name of Lake Calhoun,” KARE-TV, 2015.06.19].
In response to the racist murders in Charleston, South Carolina, last week, a Minneapolis man revived discussion of changing the name of Lake Calhoun. Given Calhoun’s role in undermining the fabric of the nation and promoting slavery and racism, changing the name of this beautiful Minneapolis lake seems at least as appropriate as changing the name of South Dakota’s highest mountain.