Battle Creek commissioner calls for removal of ‘Calhoun’ name

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — A Battle Creek city commissioner wants the community to look into removing the name Calhoun from a city street and the county itself.

John C. Calhoun served as vice president of the United States. Battle Creek City Commissioner Kate Flores says researching his past revealed a lot about his character.

“John C. Calhoun has no relationship to Michigan or this county specifically, as far as I’m aware. He is from South Carolina. He is a noted white supremacist who promoted slavery as a positive good. He is one of the original architects of Indian removal,” Flores said.

Several southwest counties were named for members of President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet when Michigan was lobbying to become a state. Because Jackson was from Tennessee and was himself a slave owner, many of the counties are named after people who also owned slaves or supported slavery.

A map showing the Michigan counties named for member of President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet.

“I’ve seen it on social media all day long,” Jeffrey Cotton, who runs a nonprofit in Battle Creek, said of the push to remove Calhoun’s name. “They’re talking about it, the kids, the young and the older people. They didn’t even know. We didn’t even know so it’s almost like an uncovered piece of history.”

Abolitionist Sojourner Truth lived in Battle Creek for many years and died at her home in the city. Jacqueline Slaby with the Battle Creek Coalition for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation said Truth should be the inspiration for a new name.

“Could Calhoun County be renamed Truth County and what does that say for the people of Battle Creek, for the people of Marshall, Albion, all communities in Calhoun County, and how would that represent all of us together,” Slaby said.

Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury said renaming the street would require a vote of the City Commission.

“We certainly are aware of some conversations on social media but at this time nothing formal has been introduced at the city commission level,” Fleury said.

News 8 reached out to the county administrator’s office for comment and had not received a response as of early Friday evening.