Testimony given for Negro Mountain renaming

From left, Nicole Olcese, legislative assistant to Del. Nick Mosby; Allegany County NAACP President Carmen Jackson; Washington County resident Reggie Turner; and Mosby Chief of Staff Brittany Lewis on Monday testify at a hearing for a bill that would form a commission to consider whether to rename Negro Mountain. 

ANNAPOLIS — Several stories vary, and few known documents agree, as to how Negro Mountain got its name. But one thing is clear, Carmen Jackson said, African Americans were labeled, not consulted or included, on what to call the peak.

Jackson, president of the Allegany County NAACP, was at the House Office Building Monday to testify at a hearing on the establishment of a commission to rename the Garrett County mountain, which occupies a 30-mile stretch of the Alleghenies from Deep Creek Lake north to the Casselman River in Pennsylvania.

House Joint Resolution 12 calls for the establishment of a group to inform Maryland’s governor, General Assembly, state archives, geological survey and Department of Natural Resources of a new name for Negro Mountain by the end of the year.

Jackson talked of driving through the area in 1975 and seeing signs for the mountain for the first time.

“It frightened me,” she said and added she prayed her car wouldn’t break down near the mountain. 

“We should change the name,” she said.

Jackson said there should be discussions on what to call the mountain.

“I think African Americans should have a voice,” she said after the hearing. “We are subjected to being labeled as we were when we were enslaved.”

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration last year removed four Negro Mountain signs — two from Interstate 68 and two from U.S. Alternate Route 40.

On Sept. 17, MDOT SHA officials met with members of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History Inc. to discuss the issue. 

The bill, introduced by Del. Nick Mosby, D-Baltimore, is backed by 15 additional sponsors.

The mountain is referred to as (N-word) Mountain in “The Old Pike” by Thomas B. Searight, a book published in 1894 that looks at the region’s highways.

States, including California and Georgia, have renamed places with offensive names, Mosby said.

The mountain’s current name “hurts tourism in our state,” Mosby said. 

Washington County resident Reggie Turner serves on the state’s Civil Rights Commission’s Western Maryland Advisory Committee, and African American studies group.

He attended Frostburg State University, and agreed the mountain’s name is bad for the economy.

“It’s time for us to … get to the truth,” he said of researching how the mountain was named and added that the peak should be named something more appropriate.

Lynn Bowman has authored multiple books on African American history, including “Ten Weeks on Jonathan Street, the Legacy of 19th Century African American Hagerstown, Maryland.”

She is an adjunct associate professor of English and speech at Allegany College of Maryland and also serves as a member of the state’s Commission on African American History and Culture.

Bowman spoke about Negro Mountain in a video that Mosby’s office played at the hearing. 

“The name has made people feel uncomfortable,” she said.

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