Lawmaker attempts to rename Negro Mountain

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It will likely be an uphill battle, but a Pennsylvania lawmaker is making another attempt at changing the name of Negro Mountain, a 30-mile-long mountain ridge that stretches from Somerset County to Western Maryland.

Since 2008, state Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Philadelphia, has lobbied unsuccessfully to change the mountain's name. Now, she plans to re-introduce a resolution calling for Gov. Tom Corbett to begin the process of renaming Negro Mountain, a move that is similar to an effort under way by a Maryland legislator.

"We're both hoping we can get it done this session," she said Monday.

The name Negro Mountain has long been controversial.

"There have been numerous attempts to change that, and it never came to fruition," said Edward Callahan, district forester for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at Forbes State Forest.

Ms. Youngblood didn't know Pennsylvania had a Negro Mountain until 2007, when her granddaughter pointed it out on a map. She was surprised and dismayed by the name, she said.

Historical documents show the name Negro Mountain dates to the 1750s, Mr. Callahan said.

According to a U.S. Geological Survey database, the mountain was named for a brave slave of a pre-Revolutionary frontiersman who died in a battle against Native Americans. The men who survived deemed the fallen man a hero, Mr. Callahan said.

"Supposedly, it was a really good thing and a really honorable thing that they named the mountain after him," said Mr. Callahan, who did not know the slave's name.

Ms. Youngblood said her research shows that the man's name was Nemesis. It's his name that should be honored, not his skin color, Ms. Youngblood said.

"I think it's important that we be politically correct and recognize heroes," she said.

A proposal to change the name to Black Hero Mountain was made in 1992 to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, but it was rejected in 1994, with the board agreeing with local and state government agencies that were against changing the name, according to theUSGS database.

Ms. Youngblood said she plans to speak with her counterparts in Somerset County about supporting her resolution. Changing the mountain's name on federal maps and records would require approval of the federal U.S. Board of Geographic Names, said a spokesman for the USGS.

For now, though, the mountain ridge is still officially Negro Mountain. Mr. Callahan, who said he realizes the name can make people uncomfortable and raise questions, said the local use maps he has designed instead refer to the ridge by its highest point. At 3,213 feet, it also happens to be the highest point in Pennsylvania.

"It was easier just to say 'Mount Davis area,' " he said.


Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.


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