Our family has resided in Columbia, South Carolina since the late 1800s. We are sixth-generation descendants of William J Sumter. Based on research performed by the SC Department of Archives and History, our great, great, great-grandfather was the first African American to own and operate a barbershop in the state of South Carolina from 1910-1960. The shop was located at 1818 Main Street here in Columbia. On December 9, 1909, he saved enough money to purchase the first of three homes on the corner of Lumber Street, now Calhoun Street, and Henderson Street. In 1911, Lumber Street was renamed to Calhoun Street in honor of John Caldwell Calhoun, a former vice president of the United States and US senator, who was known for defending the enslavement of African Americans while owning approximately 80 enslaved people himself.
Last year, the tragic death of George Floyd ignited a movement that called for justice and the honoring of rights articulated by our nation’s founding fathers that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is clear to us that in order for us to move forward, we must be steadfast to this founding principal and discontinue our honoring of people who fought against it. With that stated, John Caldwell Calhoun was a known racist and a champion of slavery. Honoring him suggests that we not only agree with his values, but that we also celebrate them.
Calhoun Street is more than just a street in our city, it’s a major thoroughfare in downtown Columbia. It is time for us to stop honoring John Caldwell Calhoun. The City of Columbia should either rename Calhoun Street to its original name (Lumber Street) or rename the street after key leaders in the community who are no longer with us to honor. Key leaders that adequately represents the characteristics of integrity, empathy, influence, and love for all humankind. This will better represent the values of our city and nation.
Olivia Dozier 20 years old, Evans Dozier 16 years old, and Sophia Dozier 14 years old.