Skip to main content

Reply to "From Niggerhead to Negrohead to Ballard, a Mountain Finally Gets A Decent Name"

Little-Known Black History Fact: Shameful Names

Date: Friday, February 26, 2010, 5:50 am
By: Jackie Jones,

The "Little-Known Black History Fact" on Thursday’s "Tom Joyner Morning Show" featured the recently-renamed Ballard Mountain, named after a black pioneer who settled the area above Santa Monica, California in the 19th century. The mountain was once officially listed on California maps first as Negrohead Mountain.

In 1955, at the request of the NAACP, an area near Temecula, Calif., called “Nigger Grade” – named for Nate Harrison, an ex-slave and settler – was renamed “Nate Harrison Grade.”

As unsettling as that may be, a more intriguing "Little-Known Black History Fact" is that in 1967, the United States Board on Geographic Names changed the names of 143 places throughout the country from “nigger” to “Negro.”

The changes were slow in coming, even after the board in 1962 banned the use of the words “nigger” and “nip,” the latter a derogatory term for Japanese people, for official place names.

Hundreds of towns, streams and mountains had the N-word in their names before 1962, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. As of 2004, nearly 600 locations and geographical features had the word "Negro" as part of their names.

The federal government has said there no longer is any place in the U.S. with the word "nigger" in its name, but the Journal cited one East Texas town that managed to slip under the radar. Nigton, a small farming community, is an abbreviated version of “Nigger Town,” an area settled in 1873 by the families of former slaves.

According to the Texas Handbook Online, the town’s name was suggested by Jeff Carter, a former slave and civic leader during the early years of the settlement. By 2000, the town, which once had a population of 500 in its early years, was down to 87 residents.

The N-word is part of the name of numerous places worldwide, three of them as far away as Tasmania. Some have argued that changing the names is altering history, while others have said the places should honor the actual people for whom they were named, rather than a generic  - and, by today’s standards, offensive - title.

And even with the official name changes in the U.S., the original names are still on many local and state maps, including Nigger Jim Hammock Bridge in Hendry County, Florida.