Should Lake Calhoun be renamed?

Lake Calhoun, Courtesy of Library of Congress.

“Contending that Lake Calhoun’s name symbolizes slavery and racism, more than 1,000 people have signed a petition asking the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to rename the popular lake,” writes MPR News reporter Riham Feshir.

Lake Calhoun was named after John Caldwell Calhoun, a South Carolina statesman, former vice president, senator, secretary of state and proponent of slavery. He is infamously known for preaching slavery as “a positive good” in the 1800s.

Mike Spangenberg, a Minneapolis blogger and activist, started the petition June 20 after an attack in a historic Charleston, S.C., church killed nine people. Prosecutors have charged Dylann Roof, 21, with nine counts of murder.

“While changing the name of a lake will not, in itself, bring an end to injustice,” Spangenberg wrote on change.org, “it can and should be an important step in an ongoing effort to confront our nation’s past and to end systemic racism and oppression today.”

Today’s Question: Should Lake Calhoun be renamed?

  • Jimmy

    I always wondered, and thought it odd if it was, named after that racist dude since he had nothing to do with Minnesota. If it gets renamed, won’t it potentially cause a costly ripple effect? Business like Calhoun square, the Calhoun beach club, etc might have to follow suit? It’s an unfortunate name choice, but maybe we should just claim it’s named for Rory Calhoun.

    • Ken Shain

      Are you kidding? It would be a marketing bonanza! All the up and coming ad firms will get big contracts to update uptown’s upscale image. Imagine Bonga Square, Bonga Beach Club, Lake Bonga Milk Carton Boat Races…oh wait! They’ve been cancelled!

  • Ralphy

    Lake Calhoun was originally called by the Dakota “Mde Maka Ska”, which meant White Earth Lake.
    I think this would be a fitting renaming. I never understood why it was named after Mr.
    Calhoun, other than an army officer trying to make good with his boss. Never
    understood why Minneapolis kept the name, as Calhoun had nothing to do with the
    city (other than dispatching a group of Army engineers to survey and later
    construct Fort Snelling).

    • James

      I really could care less what the lake is named. But why should we name anything to honor the Dakota. They, like many tribes, afterall, used to hold captives of war as slaves and they slaughtered thousands of Ojibwe. Sure, it was just a norm for many native tribes back in the day, but that shouldn’t matter. Point being, if assigning value to those in the past is to be based solely upon what are obvious norms today, we’ll be pretty short changed of acceptable historical figures. And there will never be any acceptable peoples. Slavery is obviously wrong. But it has a long and very sorted history throughout the world. You will find no society who has not engaged in it. And, unfortunately, the practice still continues in small pockets of the world today. Far better to focus on present day problems than to worry about finding historical figures without any warts based on present day morality. How do we house more people, feed more people and effectively educate more people? That’s where our time should be spent.

      • Bill

        And stop the War machine, which by the way produces more CO2 than anything in the US. Stop the War machine, stop climate change and feed and educate the people.

      • Gary F

        Why not an Ojibwe name? Seeing they lost in battle to the Dakota?

  • Ken Shain

    It should be changed. The exercise will help bring our community together and can be very instrumental in helping teachers close the “achievement gap.” As for a unifying name, how Lake Bonga after the Ojibwe-African explorer who charted Minnesota’s waterways for the French?

  • Gary F
    • David P.

      Glad to see you are still on point.

  • Sue de Nim

    It would be great if we could avoid the expense of renaming it by finding another Calhoun worthy of the honor of being the namesake of that lake and just say it’s about that person. Wikipedia lists a couple dozen famous Calhouns other than John C. Even better if it’s someone of African descent. Best of all would be if it’s someone descended from one of John C.’s slaves. If not, I say give it the Dakota name.

  • David P.

    A “golden” opportunity. Lease the naming rights to the highest bidder, ala a sports arena. Target Lake has a certain flair.

  • Bill

    How about using the letters to make a name.. We would only have to buy one vowel and one consonant . We’d call it “Loon Call”. But Lake Harriet would be a little tougher. Since I’m sure we could find something wrong with whoever Harriet was.
    I’m buying a confederate flag. This news media has to stop. The flag companies are going to make a killing.

  • PaulJ

    I suppose “Uptown Funk” is too seasonal?

  • John

    Let’s go with a Dakota name: Mystic Lake. We could put a casino there.

  • lindblomeagles

    I too, would like to see the name changed because Calhoun didn’t just own slaves – he brutalized them, and advocated others, many other Whites, should do the same thing. He really didn’t contribute much of anything to Minnesota or Minneapolis, and some of the other ideas written below, seem fitting enough for the Lake. Minneapolis already has streets bearing Dakota names. Minneapolis is already home to the Mill City Museum, harkening back to its origins as a milling community.

  • Ken Shain

    We need to heal the breach created by the Buffalo Soldiers. Honor the man who first charted our waterways for everyone’s benefit: Lake Bonga after the great Anishinabe-African!

    • Michelle F.

      Best idea I’ve heard yet!!

      • Ken Shain

        Thanks Michelle! This is a great opportunity for Minnesota’s constituent communities to maximize relations, engage the public with historical education and move toward correcting multiple inequities, all of which is long overdue.

    • Sentient

      I wouldn’t re-name Lake Calhoun, but there should be things named after George Bonga.

  • Marcia Hron

    Our history means something and it should not bow to “political correctness”. It is our “living record” of a past time, a past set of values, like them or not, they should stand, unaltered.

  • whitedoggie44

    why stop at a small lake in MN. Perhaps we develop a national committee to research names of all lakes, rivers, states, cities, counties, streets, highways, roads and buildings. Any potential physical or mental harm done to any aggrieved party will be enough to rename or we could just forget about it and get back to real problems.

  • Pearly

    Hillary used the confederate flag in ’08.
    Both Clintons have used it on campaign buttons.

  • Martha

    Yes, Hillary is a fake and a hypocrit but the media would rather ignore her history.
    As to Ken’s comment, I am shocked to read such illogical nonsense. Seriously Ken? Changing a name of a lake will bring our community
    together? How would that look? And when did you decide the “community”
    is apart? A name change will help teachers close the achievement gap?
    OMG_ now its race and education talking points? This race baiting crap will eventually be the downfall of the
    Progressives, even if Hillary still puts on a fake drawl to supposedly
    enamor herself with urban blacks and then cries foul to the things she
    used to support.
    Everyone should read the black conservative author,
    Kevin Jackson, book, “Race Pimping.” Imagine if NPR ever dared to
    interview him! Relax, it won’t happen because he is not a Progressive
    race baiting scam artist as Al Sharpton has mastered.

    • Ralphy

      Thanks Martha, for your contribution to the rename the lake question & discussion….

      • Yanotha Twangai

        Sadly, Ralphy, irony is often lost on ideologically driven hotheads like Martha. One can’t be sure she doesn’t take your “thanks” as sincere.

  • RMH

    No. Stop trying to re-write history. It was named for him because he was Secretary of War at the time Fort Snelling was established.

  • Jared Strand

    The name doesn’t mean much to the majority of people who uses it’s waters and beaches. Just because someone dug up something in history they don’t like, doesn’t mean we should “whitewash” history in order to bring it into compliance with political correctness. The Great Seal of the State of Minnesota used to show a settler plowing with a horse, and an “Indian” riding off into the sunset. It was changed to show the “native american” now riding toward the settler with his hand raised in greeting. Wow, I guess that means the Trail of Tears never happened, right?
    In addition, you also have Calhoun Parkway, Calhoun Square, etc- none of which will change as easily.

  • bob hicks

    That’s why things get named after slave-owners and purveyors of slavery in the first place — nobody was paying attention. Let’s start to pay attention, and a good place to begin is by renaming Lake Calhoun as well as anything else bearing his name. So what if there’s some inconvenience involved in renaming a lake or a street? We’ll adjust.

    • Sentient

      What should we change the names of Washington, DC, & the State of Washington to? “Seattle, Sharpton” is a little clunky.

  • Professor

    Grow up people. We can find offensive aspects in any historical staple that today would appall PC nuts. Let’s just eradicate any homage to a President who owned slaves if we’re going to act like irrational and illogical babies…

    Being a PC hound who whines non-problems disguises and dilutes the attention on real problems. It’s safe to say that one’s intelligence and practicality are indirectly proportional to how sensitive they are to PC propaganda..

    • WOw

      You’re probably some kind of tea party, backwoods asshole. PC isn’t propaganda you fucking ignorant jerk.

      • Professore

        Interesting point.

        You know, curing just shows that you aren’t articulate enough to make a sound argument..

        And actually, I’m from the Calhoun area and would bet my 7 figure annual compensation that I’m more educated than you and care more about the Chain of Lakes.

  • Hiawatha

    Why not? Calhoun was by all accounts a terrible person. Also, he had nothing to do with Minnesota. So why not rename the lake to a name that honors this state while at the same time celebrating an individual with a better legacy?
    Just because something has always been called something doesn’t mean it can’t be change if a compelling reason arises.

    • Cmon

      Because it’s an unnecessary inconvenience that will cost a lot of time and money… What’s more, it will damage the image and marketing appeal of Twin Cities Lakes. Do you even think?

      And terrible person? I bet he did more macro good than micro bad.

      • Hiawatha

        The cost would be small and could be absorbed over time. I’m unsure of why you think something like “Lake Humphrey” would be less marketable than “Lake Calhoun”. A name change wouldn’t damage anything about the lake that makes people like it. It would still be a great place to be.

        As for John C Calhoun; the man was at a time THE leading proponent of American slavery, a system which robbed millions of human beings of their rights, dignity, and in many cases their lives. Few other systems put in place on earth can compare to American slavery in depth, breadth, and brutality. And as a result, the policies that Calhoun so fiercely advocated led to the American Civil War, in which as many Americans died than in all other American wars before or since combined. An analogy to the Third Reich wouldn’t be out of place in terms of the evil system that this man was a major figure in perpetuating.

        • Cmon

          Would certainly not be a small cost and would not be absorbed over time, for Lake Calhoun is the most prominent Lake in the Twin Cities. I hope nobody takes you seriously, because you clearly have no economical foresight, and you’re lengthy historical description is incredibly presumptuous and misinformed.

          • Professore

            A sensible person ^

          • Hiawatha

            Just FYI, explaining your views with specifics might go a long way towards making them more convincing.

          • lindblomeagles

            Actually, the cost would be minimal, replacing the metal sign that says Lake Calhoun to something else. Next, Calhoun maybe popular among Twin City residents, but, the world isn’t trying to flock to Lake Calhoun. To give you an idea of just how changing a name can work from a business standpoint, I give you the Baltimore Ravens. When owner Art Modell decided to move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, the City of Cleveland fought Modell for the Browns’ namesake, and won. Forced to find an alternative name, Modell and the City of Baltimore decided to name the team the Ravens, which was more synonymous to one of Baltimore’s favorite sons, Edgar Allen Poe, who penned a poem entitled, “the Raven.”

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          • you’re so dumb

            Haha replacing signs? Is that really what you think? It’s called a menu cost, so you’ve obviously have never taken a econ class before. Let’s just name one example: The Calhoun Beach Club would have to spend hundreds of thousands if not millions in rebranding and remarketing. That’s just the start.

        • Sentient

          Let’s just find a different, more acceptable person named Calhoun and name the lake after him/her. Change it from Lake Calhoun to Lake Calhoun. “Problem” solved, money saved.

    • kevinfromminneapolis

      He had something very major to do with Minnesota: He was involved in establishing Fort Snelling.

      • lindblomeagles

        Take a minute to think about what you just said Kevin. Tyrannical slave owner Calhoun, responsible for the deaths of several hundred African men, women, and children, established Fort Snelling to stop Native American men, women, and children from having a good life as well. Now really Kevin, how ironic is this? Calhoun wasn’t just bigoted towards Blacks; he also was no fan of Indians either. This is the best you came up with? Maybe if Calhoun was responsible for the Chinese Exclusion Act or was one of Adolf Hitler’s top generals that might make things a little more different for you.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    The question is where do we want to draw the line? So we rename things after vocal advocates of slavery. What about things named after people who owned slaves? People in the north who opposed President Lincoln’s moves toward emancipation? What qualifies as “enough” support or participation in the failures of our past that it should disqualify someone from being memorialized in name? Statements? Actions? The severity of either? I don’t know, and I don’t think we’ll answer it with changing or keeping the name of a lake.

    • lindblomeagles

      Kevin, mankind has changed the names of places since he got his start here on Earth. Beijing was called Shang-hai; Myanmar used to be called Burma, Iran was known as Persia, the USSR is just Russia today, and my personal favorite, Rhodesia, is now Zimbabwe. Heck, we don’t even call African Americans colored or Negro anymore, nor do we call Jews Hymies. Suggesting a line in the sand needs to be drawn over name changes of a Lake is tantamount to raising a statute in Dylann Roofs honor for shooting 9 innocent, Church going, African Americans. Let me repeat that Kevin, this is a Lake named after a guy who contributed nothing to this state, South Carolina, the United States, or humanity. Second, Calhoun’s actions towards African Americans was no different than Roofs. Calhoun killed, maimed, and butchered scores of innocent African men, women, and children. You believe Africans killed by Calhoun was justified solely because African Americans were given the title slave (against their will) by several people during that era. Well Kevin, the title “slave” dehumanizes the very innocent African men, women, and children that were brutalized by Calhoun so that individuals, like yourself, can say, without giving it a thought, “These killings and brutal treatment were okay because these African and White people were different than today’s African and White people.” But they weren’t Kevin. All of those slaves you so politely, quickly, and racistly dismissed, had every right to live as the 9 people in that African American Church last week. Just like Roofs forcibly took their lives, so too, did Calhoun forcibly take the lives of African women, men, and children. And just as those 9 people died before their time and can’t be spared, so too, did all those African men, women, and children Calhoun so visibly acquired without asking those African men and women and children if they wanted to be acquired.

      • ?

        Nobody will read this in its entirety. Don’t contribute if you’re incapable of being concise.

  • Hugh Shakeshaft

    Let me outflank your left and propose we change the name of every Jefferson street in the country. Why not change the name of Washington state and Washington DC too? Jefferson and Washington owned slaves right?

    • lindblomeagles

      I actually am not opposed to that Hugh. I don’t really think its fair to the thousands of other white men who did exactly what Calhoun, Jefferson, and George did to their slaves. Let’s get serious for a sec Hugh, as you requested. Jefferson repeatedly raped Black Women. Do we really want somebody like that on a dollar bill? On a monument? On a street sign?

  • Mark Butterbrodt

    Joe Soucheray feels we are on a slippery slope if we change all the names people object to a little bit, that imperfections are part of our history and that knowing about these imperfect people helps
    us understand history better, so I think renaming Lake Calhoun “Lake Ed Gein” would satisfy Joe and ethical thinkers like him

    • Sentient

      Lake Ed Gein belongs in Wisconsin.

      • Mark Butterbrodt

        like John C. Calhoun, Ed Gein belongs to all of us, although it is true that a sure way to get us to behave on trips to the farm in Wisconsin was for the folks to bring up Ed Gein

    • lindblomeagles

      I stopped reading Joe years ago when it was apparent that he too laments the loss of the glorious 1950s when everybody was in their place and just followed what the leadership said. If you think he’s open to anyone other than the over-generalized WASPs, you may want to reconsider that thought.

  • Edsel Brewers

    I live in the South and Calhoun is known as “Kill-houn” because he killed 1000s of slaves. Any slave that got “uppity” was sent to “The Sugar Shack” and if they didn’t come out as sweet as sugar, he murdered them. Do you really want a lake named after him?

    • lindblomeagles

      Like I said, toward the middle of this string; he didn’t just advocate slavery, he brutalized them and rallied other whites to do the same thing to their slaves. He did some really sick stuff to his slaves.

  • Jim G

    We definitely need to change it.
    Calhoun? or is it Kalhoun? I think its the title of a 1991 song.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsoTSGhh3uM

  • Gary F

    But we’ll have to change Lake Harriet too! Named after Harriet Lovejoy Leavenworth, husband of the anti Native American killer Henry Leavenworth!

    • Jim G

      Keep Harriet … for Harriet Tubman.

  • lindblomeagles

    I commented before, but the responses I’m reading require a response. First off, mankind has renamed places since he’s been on Earth, thus Shang-Hai is Beijing, Burma is Myanmar, Persia is Iran, the U.S.S.R. is Russia, Czechoslovakia is literally the country of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Rhodesia, now made famous by Dylann Roofs – killer of 9 African Americans in a South Carolina Church last week, is actually Zimbabwe. We even changed things here in the New World. Tenochtitlan is Mexico City, Mexico is south of the Rio Grande, and the nation’s capital is not in Philadelphia, where it was before the American Revolution. Even in Minnesota, we change names, adding such streets as Carew Drive, Puckett Way, and Old Rondo Avenue. We’re also not the first nation to withdraw support from ruthless, despicable people either. Does anyone honestly think the Germans proudly celebrate Adolph Hitler, or the Chinese celebrate Chiang Kai-shek, or the Russians celebrate Joseph Stalin? There’s a tendency in these United States to protect everything Caucasians say and do, no matter how ugly it is. Nobody is advocating Caucasians should feel guilty or pay restitution for the rest of their lives because their ancestors were so terrible. What is being said is that some Caucasians, like Dylann Roofs, continue to honor and mimic the lives of people like Calhoun. He didn’t just believe Calhoun was right. He sought, unlawfully, to do the things Calhoun did. That’s the difference. Believing is one thing. Doing is something else entirely.

    • Ya..no..

      Tl;dr, but I think I get your argument.. And it’s recklessly shortsighted. Do you really think this is a matter of just qualitatively adjusting to a new name? If so, go back to being useless.

  • Khatti

    I live no where near the lake, but if I did I would acquiesce to the demand. This one just isn’t worth fighting over.

  • Martha

    If this passes, then we should also rename parks and demolish statutes such as related to these people in order to be politically correct? Yikes! (fact checked the following so there would be a huge list of places to “un-do”

    The Democrat memorials and related structures:

    Democrats fought to expand slavery while Republicans fought to end it.

    Democrats passed those discriminatory Black Codes and Jim Crow laws.

    Democrats supported and passed the Missouri Compromise to protect slavery.

    Democrats supported and passed the Kansas Nebraska Act to expand slavery.

    Democrats supported and backed the Dred Scott Decision.

    Democrats opposed educating blacks and murdered our teachers.

    Democrats fought against anti-lynching laws.

    Democrat Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, is well known for having been a “Kleagle” in the Ku Klux Klan.
    Democrat Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, personally filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for 14 straight hours to keep it from passage.
    Democrats passed the Repeal Act of 1894 that overturned civil right laws enacted by Republicans.

    Democrat President Woodrow Wilson, reintroduced segregation throughout the federal government immediately upon taking office in 1913.

    Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first appointment to the Supreme Court was a life member of the Ku Klux Klan, Sen. Hugo Black, Democrat of Alabama.

    Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s choice for vice president in 1944 was Harry Truman, who had joined the Ku Klux Klan in Kansas City in late 1922.

    Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt opposed integration of the armed forces.

    Democrat Senators Sam Ervin, Albert Gore, Sr. and Robert Byrd were the chief opponents of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    Democrat public safety commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor, in Birmingham, Ala., unleashed vicious dogs and turned fire
    hoses on black civil rights demonstrators.

    Democrat Georgia Governor Lester Maddox “brandished an ax hammer to prevent blacks from patronizing his restaurant. (local news story)
    Democrat Governor George Wallace stood in front of the Alabama schoolhouse in 1963, declaring there would be segregation forever.
    Democrat Arkansas Governor Faubus tried to prevent desegregation of Little Rock public schools.
    Democrat Senator John F. Kennedy voted against the 1957 Civil rights Act.
    Democrat President John F. Kennedy opposed the 1963 March on Washington by Dr. King.
    Democrat President John F. Kennedy, had Dr. King wiretapped and investigated by the FBI.

    Democrat Senator J. William Fulbright signed the Southern Manifesto opposing the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
    Democrat Senator J. William Fulbright joined with the Dixiecrats in filibustering the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964.
    Democrat Senator J. William Fulbright voted against the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

    Republicans gave strong bi-partisan support and sponsorship for the following

    legislation:
    The Civil Rights Act of 1964

    The Voting Rights Act of 1965

    The 1968 Civil Rights Acts

    The Equal Opportunity Act of 1972

    Goals and Timetables for Affirmative Action Programs

    Comprehensive Employment Training Act of 1973

    Voting Rights Act of Amendment of 1982

    Civil Rights Act of 1983

    Federal Contract Compliance and Workforce Development Act of 1988

    Republicans enacted civil rights laws in the 1950’s and 1960’s, over the objection of Democrats.

    Republicans founded the HBCU’s (Historical
    Black College’s and Universities) and started the NAACP to counter the
    racist practices of the Democrats.

    These few with statutes and memorials could stay because they weren’t racist 🙂
    Republican President Eisenhower appointed Chief
    Justice Earl Warren to the Supreme Court, which resulted in the 1954
    Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

    Republican Senator Everett Dirksen from Illinois, not Democrat President Lyndon Johnson, was the one who pushed through the civil rights laws of the 1960’s.

    He wrote the language for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He crafted the language for the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which prohibited discrimination in housing.

    Republican and black American, A. Phillip Randolph, organized the 1963 March by Dr. King on Washington.

    The 1964 Civil Rights Act Roll Call Vote: In the House, only 64 percent of the Democrats (153 yes, 91 no), but 80 percent of the Republicans (136 yes, 35 no), voted for it. In the Senate, while only 68 percent of the Democrats endorsed the bill (46 yes, 21 no), 82 percent of the Republicans voted to enact it (27 yes, 6 no).

    During the Senate debates on the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, it was
    revealed that members of the Democratic Party formed many terrorist
    organizations like the Ku Klux Klan to murder and intimidate African
    Americans voters. The Ku Klux Klan Act was a bill introduced by a
    Republican Congress to stop Klan Activities.

    History reveals that it was Abolitionists and Radical Republicans
    such as Henry L. Morehouse and General Oliver Howard that started many
    of the traditional Black colleges, while Democrats fought to keep them
    closed. Many of our traditional Black colleges are NAMED after white
    Republicans.

    I think Democrats, Whites and Blacks, should know the real history before everyone starts changing names to ignore parts of history????

    • Yanotha Twangai

      That’s got to be the most uninformed comment I’ve read in months. If you think today’s Democratic Party has any continuity with the antebellum version, you are seriously ignorant of history. After the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Democrats and the Republicans have basically traded places on the race issue, with all of the “conservatives” (in this context it’s a euphemism for racists) now claiming allegiance to the GOP.

      • Agreed.

        “Martha” apparently hasn’t realized that the two major political parties have actually swapped political platforms slowly over the past 140 years.

        • pogatch

          Agreed. It is no coincidence that her evidence starts to wear thin in the 1960’s. She should read up on Strom Thurmond a bit. he is a great example of a democrat who promoted the Jim Crow laws, split because Truman desegregated the military, created the dixiecrats, then made the complete switch to republican in 1964. His thoughts on black people never changed, but the thoughts of the party did. They alienated the black vote and got the southern religious crowd to vote for them. It has continued to change to this day.