lawmakers are urging a federal board to change the racially insensitive names of geographic locations throughout the state once more.
The Texas House
signed a resolution last month urging the United States
Board on Geographic Names to approve name change requests for 16 locations that include the term "negro." According to The Washington Post
, the panel will meet Thursday to vote on the removal.
“The persistence of racially offensive language is a stain on the Lone Star State, and it is critical that the names of these geographic features be changed to reflect and honor the diversity
of the population,” state Sen. Borris Miles wrote in the resolution.
A similar request from the state was denied in 1991 by the USBGN, which is tasked with maintaining geographic names for the federal government.
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who co-sponsored the name change proposal 30 years ago, said he learned last year from an NPR reporter that only one of the 19 names he originally proposed be changed had been changed, and that was due to a request from a local property developer in 2018, leaving 16 locations unchanged.
“If it’s so easy to give an awful name, why isn’t it so easy to change that name?” Ellis questioned bureaucratic red tape to The Washington Post.
According to the USBGN's website, the proposed new names were previously rejected because they lacked a historical connection and there was no evidence of local support, both of which are required for a name change, even if the name is considered derogatory or offensive.
“We spent a lot of time reaching out to the counties, and a lot of them said, ‘No, don’t change those names,’” USBGN researcher Jennifer Runyon told NPR last year.
According to Runyon, the process was terminated because it is not the board's responsibility to actively seek to change names.
In 1963, then-Interior Secretary Stuart Udall ordered that the N-word and an offensive term for Japanese Americans be removed from all geographic names; at the time, some of those names were changed to include the word "negro."
The website of the USBGN lists hundreds of locations across the country that contain the word "negro."
Senate Concurrent Resolution 29 in Texas resubmits the previously proposed name changes for each location.
One creek in Van Zandt County, for example, would be renamed Milton Holland Creek, while another in Brewster County would be renamed Buffalo Soldier Creek, and still another in Freestone County would be renamed Jack Johnson Creek.
The USBGN website acknowledges the failed attempt to change the names of all three of those locations, stating that the proposal was rejected in 1999 “because the Board did not observe any evidence that there was any local involvement in the renaming process.” There was also “no evidence of local objection to the current name or local acceptance of the proposed na
Linda Grant of Freestone County told Stardia on Wednesday that she had no idea there was a creek in the area with the word "negro" in its title and was unaware of any previous or current name change requests.
Attempts to reach officials in both Van Zandt and Brewster counties were unsuccessful on Wednesday, and the USBGN and Miles did not respond to requests for comment immediately.