By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Charleston, S.C., massacre and battle over the Confederate flag has stirred up a major conversation in Minneapolis.

A new petition is asking that the name of Lake Calhoun be changed. The lake is named after John C. Calhoun, a former war department secretary who helped bring Fort Snelling to Minnesota. He is also known for supporting slavery.

The monument with his name was recently desecrated in Charleston. And here, there is also dissension about his namesake lake.

This park, this lake is typically a place where people go to relax and escape the stress of the world. But as of right now, Lake Calhoun is a source of tension. Whether it’s a winter dip or a summer’s sweat, 365 days a year it’s a place for enjoyment. But there’s more to the name than some realize.

We told this beach-goer about the history. The lake is named after a 19th century politician who fought to protect the institution of slavery.

“I would definitely be in favor of changing the name,” Nino said.

“We’ve seen a re-energized effort to start a petition to strike the name Calhoun from Lake Calhoun,” Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Jacobs says the events in South Carolina have brought the issue to the forefront here. The local NAACP president says she’s been waiting.

“I’m appalled that Lake Calhoun would be named after someone who supported the institution of slavery. I’m a descendant of slaves, I still see the effects of the impacts of slavery,” Nekima Levy Pounds said.

Along with a list of people who joined an online petition, Levy Pounds said she is hoping change will happen. Despite the push, that could be complicated.

“I think in Minnesota most people would be supportive of getting rid of the name Calhoun. The problem is legality and how you would do it in this very convoluted process,” Jacobs said.

State law would have to be re-written and voted upon. Then approval would still be needed on a federal level from the U.S. Geographic Board.

Jacobs says it would be a long road ahead, but right now the wheels are in motion. Another hurdle here: Jacobs says because emotions are running high, it would have momentum in the State House now, but if it gets taken up at this point, it won’t be until January.

But some people are starting to think of Lake Calhoun in a whole different light.

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