SHOULD NEGRO MOUNTAIN’S NAME BE CHANGED?
NEGRO MOUNTAIN IS LOCATED ON THE PENNSYLVANIA/MARYLAND BORDER
Somehow my name was on the mailing list for the following email:
Unknown to most people, there is a mountain named “Negro Mountain” which straddles the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. Rep. Rosita Youngblood (D, Philadelphia) is introducing legislation to change the name.
I’ve come to know Negro Mountain through my writing. The mountain is near the National Road (Rt. 40) that was constructed closely following Braddock Road, which closely followed Nemacolin Indian Trail. The first of the Frenchmen who came to the United States with deeds to land in Ohio (purchased from the Scioto Associates company in Paris) traveled Braddock’s Road enroute to Gallipolis (part of the novel I’m writing).
Monte and I climbed Mt. Davis a few years ago. We climbed to the top of the fire-watch tower on a cold Valentine’s Day when the ground was white with snow.
Mt. Davis is the highest point (3,213 feet) along the thirty-mile length of the Negro Mountain ridge, which extends from Deep Creek Lake in Maryland to the Casselman River in Pennsylvania. Laurel Hill (the ridge) flanks Negro Mountain on the west side and the Allegheny Ridge flanks it east side..
At no time have I considered that its name, Negro, was derogatory.
ABOUT THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION TO CHANGE THE NAMEThe bill revives a debate that last peaked in the mid-1990s when the Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, upon examining the same question, refused to rechristen Negro Mountain as Black Hero Mountain. The Committee found that the historical name was not applied in a derogatory sense.***
Two years ago Maryland State Sen. Lisa Gladden introduced a bill seeking to rename Negro Mountain because its current name is culturally insensitive. She called for a commission to come up with a new name that would more accurately reflect the Appalachian culture and history in the state’s western panhandle that abuts the Pennsylvania state line.**
Rep. Youngblood, who introduced the 2013 bill, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she was stunned when her granddaughter, a grade school student, told her that there was a place called Negro Mountain on a commonwealth map. Youngblood thought “there couldn’t really be a Negro Mountain in Pennsylvania.”
Rep. Youngblood said she was unaware of Gladden’s efforts, but they have now talked about advancing the name-change idea on both sides of the mountain.
THE STORY BEHIND THE NAMING OF NEGRO MOUNTAIN
Negro Mountain is said to have been named to honor a slave named Nemesis who died there in 1756 during the French and Indian War, in a battle he fought alongside western country settler and surveyor Colonel Cresap.
Colonel Cresap…got together a company of volunteers, and with his two surviving sons — Daniel and Michael — and a negro of gigantic stature, marched again, taking the same route on Braddock’s road. They advanced this time as far as Negro mountain, where they met a party of Indians. A running fight took place; Cresap’s party killed an Indian and the Indians killed the negro; and it was this circumstance — the death of the negro on the mountain — that has immortalized his name by fixing it on this ridge forever. This was, I believe, Colonel Cresap’s last battle with the Indians, for after peace was made, he returned to his farm at Old Town…*******
THE KEY ISSUES CONCERNED IN THE RENAMING SUGGESTION
The mountains need prettier, more scenic, names than Negro (or Polish), according to Sen. Jennie Forehand, a Montgomery Democrat who acknowledges that she doesn’t know the history of how the mountain was named.***
Negro is a term that often has carried with it negative connotations about African-Americans, “As we talk about inclusion and respect, Negro Mountain doesn’t fit.”***
We live in different times, where we must recognize the person, not label them by the color of their skin. The mountain’s name should honor the man’s heroism rather than his skin color.**
Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-Baltimore city), in reference to renaming historical sites, explains that History changes. Time changes. Everything changes. This country has progressed.****
MY RESPONSE TO THE ISSUES
First, I’ll dismiss the name-change argument that the names need to be prettier and scenic on grounds I believe most of you will understand why.
Second, I’ll ask—Is the word Negro derogatory?
Activists in El Dorado, California, are working to change cemetery designations. Almost sixty years ago, thirty-six gravestones moved to make way for a reservoir were identified as Unknown. Moved from Nigger Hill Cemetery by U.S. Government – 1954. In 2011 activists worked to change the marker identifications, to change the derogatory term Nigger to the original name, Negro. (Lt. Col. Andrew B. Kiger, the commander of the Corps’ Sacramento District, told the AP that “we are deeply ashamed and regretful to find this word in our records, and for having perpetuated a racist, hateful word that has no place in public discourse.”)******
If the term “Negro” is derogatory then the name correction will have to be recorrected. Also, the many places the word Negro is used will need to be changed, including that of the United Negro College Fund and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.****
FYI: In the U.S. today, there are 757 places with Negro in the name, many of which, like Negro Mountain, were changed to the more acceptable “Negro” from you-know-what. There are also 35 “Spooks,” 30 “Spades,” 14 “Sambos,” at least seven “Darkeys,” and according to the U.S. Geological Service, too many “Coons” to count. There’s a Darkey Springs, Tennessee; a Pickaninny Buttes, California; a Dead Negro Draw in Texas…*’*
Apparently, the term Negro isn’t all that derogatory.
(Alas, Rep. Youngblood growled: “This is ridiculous. What century are we living in? In my mind, there’s no justification for this blatant disrespect — none. They always fall back on ‘tradition’ when you call them out on it, but any tradition that disrespects and demeans an entire group of people is not a tradition worth holding on to.”)
Third, about not labeling by skin color…although the term Negro refers to a black person, it reflects on race, not on color. The term Negro Mountain honors the race in response to the Indian’s heroism. What better honor than that?
Fourth, We live in different times… Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-Baltimore city) explains that History changes. Time changes. Everything changes. This country has progressed.****
History may change with newly discovered facts and new interpretations, but progression doesn’t mean the rewriting of history to fit political agendas, political correctness.
An online comment by MICHAEL MANCE2 states …Keep history the way it is, Names of places should not be changed because a couple of people find them offensive. Seriously, think of everything in this region that needs actual change… The resources taken to act on name change suggestions might better be used elsewhere. Some Maryland lawmakers say the bill reflects political correctness taken to an extreme by legislators in Baltimore and Maryland’s Washington suburbs.***
Negro Mountain has claimed its name for over two hundred years. Sen. Gladden said nobody questions that the black war hero, Nemesis, was a brave man, and that the intent of naming Negro Mountain was to honor his sacrifice.****
She wants to rename the mountain using his real name. ** However, there is disagreement as to the hero’s real name—either Goliath or Nemesis—which both sound more like nicknames or mascot tags than personal names.****
An ending point: Gladden’s proposal doesn’t include a call to rename another Maryland peak, Big Savage Mountain, but she said she also finds that name objectionable.*** However, if you opt to change the name of Negro Mountain because it is derogatory, what about Big Savage Mountain and Savage River? I’ll save that for another post…
For now I return to the email with the following petition:
Please change the name of “Negro Mountain,” which was originally named to honor Nemesis, a slave killed in the French and Indian War. A more appropriate name would be “Nemesis Mountain,” which would honor the man, not his race.
I amend the petition to read:
Please don’t change the name of “Negro Mountain,” which was originally named to honor Nemesis, a slave killed in the French and Indian War. When I hear the title “Negro” in the name I sense an honor to the race, not to the color.