JF Ptak Science Books Post 1625
There are 5601geographic names in this country starting with the word "Negro". Since "Negro" wasn't really recognized widely as having a capital "N"--that a whole race of people weren't deserving of a capital letter--until the late 1930's, these place names didn't start out this way, using the word "Negro". They used something else. And I think that it is a safe bet that in 1962, when offensive names were removed from designating geographical places in the U.S., that almost all of these "Negro" places had been changed from "Nigger". And that wasn't all of them, either.
I think that this is just a small percentage of the changed titles. For example, I own a very large (30 sq ft) map of the place I live, Buncombe County (NC), that contains at least 25 place names using the word "Nigger". Today in the state there are 12 names using the word "Negro". It is possible that at one time then there could have been hundreds of place names printed on county maps for the state of North Carolina designated "Nigger" that have simply been replaced or erased or changed in some way.
Among many other things, language is a bomb, a land mine, a virus, a means to an end--and sometimes it is just not pretty as a signifier, or classifier. Sometimes it is an oppressive thing, an offensive weapon, a prison. We are reminded of that today as we see with the recent business with presidential candidate Rick Perry's family hunting patch near Paint Creek, Texas. The place was called "Niggerhead", the name painted on a rock at one of the place's gates, and had been there for years--it may have been there as recently as 2008, though Gov. Perry says the word was painted over in 1983 or '84. When the name was painted over seems to be open for discussion. It shouldn't be.
The fact of the matter is that the word "Nigger' was used in thousands of geographic designations in printed maps, and still used in large numbers up to 1962.
As I pointed out, the capitalization of the word "Negro" was hotly debated up until the late 1930's, when most anti-capital forces gave in. Even though "Negro" had not been recognized as being worthy of a capital "N", "Nigger" was, and appeared so on countless maps and other published and official (and federally printed) documents. In this instance the use of the offensive word along with using the small "n" in "negro" proved to be another very effective means of controlling a people by controlling the language in which they were discussed. Using words as weapons like this has come with an incalculable cost, and the Rick Perry episode of slowly dealing with one of those words is a good reminder of this long and indoctrinated legacy of repression and hate, and how not-far away it all is.
There are places today called "Negro Jim", and Andy, and Bob, Bill, Jake, Jack, James, Joe and so on, and you know for certain that "Negro James Landing" wasn't named so 50 years ago. Squint your eyes and you can well imagine the original name: Negro Ditch, Cut, Island, Jump, Canyon, Branch, Lake, Head, Heads, River, Hollow, Knob, Hill, Prong and of course "Negro Jumpoff" could hardly have started out their lives using "Negro".
Currently, of the 560 place names using "Negro", 8 are in New England and 54 are in the Middle Atlantic states. The distribution is as follows: AL, 17; AK, 7; AZ, 21; AR, 18; CA, 55; CO, 19; CT, 2; DE, 1; DC, 0; FL, 13; GA, 7; HI, 0; ID, 11; IL, 12; IN, 3; IA, 1; KS, 7; LA, 10; KY, 22; ME, 1; MD, 6; MA, 2; MI,1; MN, 1; MS, 1; MO, 18; MT, 10; NE, 3; NV, 14; NH, 0; NJ, 2; NM, 44; NY, 22; NC, 12; ND, 0; OH, 6; OK, 19; OR, 29; PA, 15; RI, 1; SC, 7; SD, 9; TN, 37; TX, 30; UT, 7; VT, 2; VA, 17; WA, 6; WVa, 6; WI, 3; WY 15.
I should note that there are still 10 places in the U.S. using the name "Redskin". Not including a football team for the Nation's Capital.