Maryland Bill Seeks To Rename Negro, Polish Mountains

Top of Negro Mountain along US 40, 1938. Photo by Lois Reed.

By The Associated Press (Myfoxdc.com, 2/7/2011)

CUMBERLAND, Md. – A Maryland state senator said Monday that she has introduced a bill seeking to rename two Appalachian peaks, Negro Mountain and Polish Mountain, citing cultural sensitivities.

Lawmakers Speak to FOX 5 About the Bill To Rename Negro, Polish Mountains: MyFoxDC.com

State Sen. Lisa Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat, said she was joined by eight other Democratic co-sponsors in offering a proposal that would seek to create a commission to come up with new names by year’s end. She said new names are needed to more accurately reflect the history and culture of Maryland’s western Appalachian region near the state line with Pennsylvania.

Gladden said the name Negro Mountain has bothered her for years.

“Negro is a term that often has carried with it negative connotations about African-Americans,” Gladden told The Associated Press by telephone. “As we talk about inclusion and respect, Negro Mountain doesn’t fit.”

Yet lawmakers from the state’s mountainous western panhandle said the bill reflects political correctness taken to an extreme by legislators in Baltimore and Maryland’s Washington suburbs.

Lawmakers Speak to FOX 5 About the Bill To Rename Negro, Polish Mountains: MyFoxDC.com

“It’s just asinine,” Delegate Kevin Kelly, an Allegany Democrat, told the Cumberland Times-News.

The bill revives a debate that last peaked in the mid-1990s when the Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names refused to rechristen Negro Mountain as Black Hero Mountain. The committee found that the mountain’s name was not applied in a derogatory sense.

Supporters say Negro Mountain is dedicated to the heroism of an 18th century black man, though details are unclear. There is little in the historical record on the origins of the name Polish Mountain.

Sen. Jennie Forehand, a Montgomery Democrat, said both Negro and Polish mountains should have prettier names.

“Maybe I don’t know the history of how those mountains got named but I think if they were in my district, I would like to have a name that was perhaps more scenic,” she told AP.

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Senators: Local mountains need new names

Western Maryland representatives don’t support push to change Negro, Polish

by Matthew Bieniek (The Cumberland Times, 2/9/2011)

CUMBERLAND — Two local mountains need new names, a group of state senators say, and they want a commission created to select new monikers for Negro Mountain and Polish Mountain which “reflect more accurately the history and culture of the region within which they are located.”

None of the nine senators sponsoring Senate Joint Resolution 3 represent the region where the two mountains rise in the Allegheny Mountain range, with Negro Mountain in Garrett County reaching a height of 3,075 feet and Polish Mountain in Allegany County climbing 1,783 feet from sea level.

The senate resolution isn’t too popular with the legislators who do represent those who live on and near the mountains.

“It’s just asinine,” said Delegate Kevin Kelly. Kelly wondered why Polish Mountain ended up in the resolution. “I’m of Irish descent. We’d love to have a mountain named after us. Let’s rename it Irish Mountain,” he quipped. State Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel joined in the skepticism.

“I grew up on Negro Mountain and have a farm on Negro Mountain. I don’t know why people in the Baltimore area are so worried about it,” said Beitzel. The mountain, he said, was actually named in the language of the time in tribute to a black man’s heroism.

“It boils down to the political correctness stuff we’re into in this world,” said Edwards. “The name, at the time, was meant with honor and respect.” Edwards also said he doesn’t think Maryland has the authority to change the name of a mountain. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names of The National Geologic Survey has that authority and has previously rejected a name change, he said.

The history behind the names isn’t simple to pin down, especially in the case of Polish Mountain. It looks like the explanation Beitzel has heard about Negro Mountain is correct.

Champ Zumbrun, a retired forester who managed Green Ridge State Forest for many years, has researched local history and is working on a on Maryland frontiersman Thomas Cresap. His co-authors include some of Cresap’s descendants. He’s found a letter Cresap sent to the Maryland Gazette in 1756, explaining the event which led to the naming of the mountain.

“The name honors one of our earliest black frontiersmen,” said Zumbrun. Cresap wrote that a free black man, who was a member of his volunteer rangers during the French and Indian War, acted heroically during a battle with Indians, and in fact saved Cresap’s life. The black frontiersman was mortally wounded in the battle and was buried on the mountain.

Another account provided by the Garrett County Historical Society largely agrees with that account.

“I suggest and recommend the name of Negro Mountain remain unchanged, as it is named in honor of a brave black frontiersman, one of the earliest “free” black frontiersman on record in American colonial history serving the cause of liberty against British tyranny, who saved on that mountain the life of Colonel Thomas Cresap, allowing the opportunity for Col. Thomas Cresap to contribute soon thereafter significantly to the American liberties we all enjoy today,” Zumbrun wrote in an email to the Times-News.

Zumbrun says a deed he’s seen from 1790 refers to “Polished Mountain,” but beyond that, Zumbrun has little evidence about the way the name developed, “things get changed over time,” he said. The rocks on the mountain tend to shine when wet, and the leaves of the Aspen trees which once covered the mountain can also be shiny, he said.

Kelly wondered why the senators backing the resolution wouldn’t want to rename organizations with seemingly politically incorrect, but historically significant names, like the NAACP or The United Negro College Fund, he said.

The resolution would require the governor to establish and appoint the members of the naming commission, who would be required to decide on new names by Dec. 31.

Sen. Joan Conway, one of the sponsors of the resolution, did not return a Friday phone call from the Times-News. Conway represents Baltimore.

For a complete article by Zumbrun on the naming of Negro Mountain, see http:// www.whilbr.org/itemdetail.aspx?idEntry=3024&dtPointer=2

* * *

Bill Would Rename Negro and Polish Mountains

By Mark Weaver (WMAL.com, 2/7/2011)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A state senator has introduced legislation to rename two Maryland mountains – Negro Mountain and Polish Mountain.

Senator Lisa Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat, says the name Negro Mountain has bothered her for years.

However lawmakers from the state’s mountainous western panhandle said the bill reflects political correctness taken to an extreme by legislators in Baltimore and Maryland’s Washington suburbs.

“It’s totally asinine. It is political correctness run amok,” Delegate Kevin Kelly, an Allegany Democrat, told 630 WMAL News.

“It [Negro Mountain] was named in honor of a black individual and I don’t know how Polish Mountain got into the bill,” said Kelly.

“Maybe the sponsors of the bill need to contact the United Negro College Fund to change that name or the NAACP and remove colored”, said Kelly, who predicts the legislation will fail.

In the mid-1990s the Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names refused to rename Negro Mountain as Black Hero Mountain. The committee found that the mountain’s name was not applied in a derogatory sense.

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