The idea of changing the name of beautiful Lake Calhoun to Hubert Humphrey Lake has caused quite a stir in Minneapolis. Lake Calhoun is the largest and most beautiful lake in Minneapolis, a city known nationally for its beautiful lakes.
The dispute arose when it was revealed that the lake was named in honor of John C. Calhoun, whose greatest legacy in history was his strong defense of and intense legal fights attempting to justify and preserve slavery in the United States.
For the past month or so, the local media has kicked the dispute around. Examples have ranged from such statements as, “It’s an outright silly idea to rename a popular lake, just because of something a person did 150 years ago” to “A lake that is being showcased as representing the city should at least have the name of someone who represent the principles of which most Minneapolitans stand for, rather than a racist from South Carolina who spent most of his life fighting for and justifying slavery.”
Those are two extreme opposite discussions that have gone back and forth in the press on the subject recently. Most of the discussion both pro and con seems to be coming from ordinary people. The Minneapolis Park Board and City Council seems less than impressed with the whole idea. They seem to be hoping that the whole thing would simply go away and be forgotten.
Another reason that some City figures in high places may be reluctant to touch the suggestion is that the business community frowns on the idea. Over the years several business in and around the area have picked up the name of “Calhoun.” They fear that changing the name would adversely affect their businesses.
What are the facts regarding John C. Calhoun? The facts are that Calhoun was a respectable South Carolina statesman of his time. He rose from state senator to U.S. senator, to U.S. Army chief of staff, to vice president of the U.S. to being considered for president. He was considered a brilliant statesman of his time.
His only hang-up was that he sincerely believed that Africans were inferior human beings, and that slavery was their place in life. It is said that he was so imbued with the importance of slavery that he is cited as to have once implied that it would be better for Southern states to return to colonial status under Great Britain if necessary to preserve slavery.
Regarding the name change, there is one thing that lingers in my mind: How in the Sam Hill did they decide to give that beautiful Minnesota lake his name in the first place? Who accepts the responsibility for the brilliant idea of naming Minneapolis’ showcase lake after a South Carolina slave enthusiast? Was the state void of Minnesota heroes at the time?
Another thought occurring to me regarding the matter is why amid all of the media dispute, no local African American group has spoken out publicly regarding this renaming business.
Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.