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Experts shed light on history of 'Runaway Negro Creek' in Chatham County

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A resolution to rename “Runaway Negro Creek” on Skidaway Island is gaining traction in the Georgia Senate.

Nestled next to the Skidaway Island State Park, you’ll find a snapshot of Chatham County’s ties to slavery, starting with Runaway Negro Creek.

“During the Civil War, Africans escaping out of these areas trying to get to places such as Fort Pulaski or any coastal area or again trying to get to Hilton Head because those are places of freedom. Those are sanctuaries of freedom for them," said Dr. Jamal Toure, a resident scholar with Geechee Kunda.

Toure says Runaway Negro Creek was used as a passage to freedom for slaves, but the creek’s current name doesn’t tell the entire story.

“You can’t give a part of history and not give the fullness. You’ve got to go to the larger conclusion of it all," stated Toure.

That’s why Georgia Sen. Lester Jackson wants to rename it “Freedom Creek” instead.

Toure said, “You’re running away from what? You’re running away to get something. You’re running away to have freedom. So if it’s called 'Freedom Creek', guess what [Jackson] has done? He has merely given the full view of the story."

The resolution has already gotten the green light from the Senate Urban Affairs Committee. Now, it’s heading to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration.

“Clearly 'Runaway Negro Creek' has probably been inappropriate for a very long time," said Dr. Stan Deaton, a senior historian with the Georgia Historical Society. "First of all, I think we can probably all agree that the name is really not appropriate anymore for 21st century Georgia. It doesn’t really represent who we are and I think that that’s really important.”

Critics have argued that a name change for the creek would erase part of Chatham County’s history, but Toure disagrees.

“Before the Civil War, after the Civil War, it’s all about freedom. It’s not about erasing history. Again that is reactionary madness. We need to give the full view of the history so people can make the connections," he said.