Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

January 30, 2013

It’s our history

Renaming Negro Mt. would be ‘revisionist’

“Revisionist history” is a term that describes the altering of historical accounts to change what some consider an unpalatable truth to a version that’s more acceptable or politically correct.

Revisionist historians, for example, would just as soon we forget that prior to the Civil War, as many as 3,000 free blacks actually owned slaves in America.

It’s not a new phenomenon. During Prohibition, a movement arose in Cumberland to change the name of Wineow Street — not because of its spelling, but because it was pronounced the same as a common term for alcoholics.

Changing the name of Negro Mountain, as has been proposed by lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Maryland, would in our view be tantamount to rewriting part of our region’s history.

This isn’t the first attempt to have this done and, if it fails again, we doubt that it will be the last.

Tri-state area residents have always known it as Negro Mountain, and it has never had the negative connotation perceived by State Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Phila., and State Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore. The two have teamed up to lobby for the renaming of the Appalachian peak that sits on the line between the two states.

Some historians believe the mountain was named for a black man accompanying Thomas Cresap’s rangers during the French and Indian War. The man, whose name according to some versions of the story was Nemesis, is believed to have saved Cresap’s life, while losing his own, in a battle with Indians.

He is thought to be a free black man. Some accounts say his name was Goliath, and that he was a man of large stature. According to a Times-News story in 2011, Nemesis had a premonition of his death, which he disclosed to Cresap before the battle. After Nemesis was laid to rest on the mountain, it was named in his honor.

Two years ago, Gladden introduced a resolution in the Maryland General Assembly to rename the mountain, but it died in a Senate committee. Western Maryland representatives Sen. George Edwards and Delegates Kevin Kelly, Wendell Beitzel and LeRoy Meyers testified against the bill.

A question of the week we posed at that time (Feb. 11, 2011) was: Should Negro Mountain be renamed? The response was 1,267 No votes and 93 Yes votes.

When Negro Mountain was named in the 1750s, it was considered a tribute to Nemesis’ courage and sacrifice on behalf of Cresap’s rangers. To rename it “Nemesis Mountain” would be to change an image that honors a significant act of bravery to one that suggests an ongoing source of harm or ruin. If anyone ever was misnamed, it was the heroic Nemesis — who was a nemesis only to the Indians he fought.

The historical context and importance of the French and Indian War in the development of our region and the nation as a whole should be the paramount issue.

We hope lawmakers in both states concur and put the Negro Mountain issue to rest.

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