The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 27, 2013

Peak on border over the line, lawmakers say: Two pushing for new name for Somerset-Garrett mountain

HARRISBURG — A Philadelphia lawmaker is teaming up with one of her Maryland colleagues to lobby for the renaming of an Appalachian peak called Negro Mountain that sits on the line between the two states.

State Rep. Rosita Youngblood, D-Philadelphia, said she was stunned when her granddaughter, who is in grade school, told her that she had found a place called Negro Mountain on a map of the commonwealth.

“I thought, there couldn’t really be a Negro Mountain in Pennsylvania,” Youngblood, who is black, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Since she found out about the 30-mile ridge straddling Somerset County and Garrett County, Md., in 2007, Youngblood has launched periodic efforts to persuade her colleagues in the state Legislature that it was time for a name change. She announced Friday that she was renewing her campaign.

The ridge is said to have been named to honor a slave named Nemesis who died there in 1756, fighting alongside settlers and British force during the French and Indian War.

Youngblood said she wanted the name to honor the man’s heroism rather than his skin color.

“I am not looking to rewrite history,” she said. “Nobody questions that Nemesis was a brave man, and the intent of naming Negro Mountain was to honor his sacrifice. But we live in different times, where we must recognize the person, not label them by the color of their skin.”

A Maryland state lawmaker two years ago introduced a bill seeking to rename the ridge and another Appalachian peak, Polish Mountain, citing cultural sensitivities. State Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore, called for a commission to come up with new names that would more accurately reflect the history and culture of Maryland’s western Appalachian region near the state line with Pennsylvania.

“They don’t call Mount McKinley ‘White Man Mountain.’ ” Gladden said.

Both, however, said their colleagues have been anything but enthusiastic.

“They said, ‘Why do you want to change something that’s always been there?’ ” Youngblood said. “Then they asked why a Philadelphia lawmaker was getting involved.”

Gladden said the idea “seemed like a no-brainer,” to her but the reaction indicated that it was anything but.

“They think I’m an agitator from the city,” Gladden said.

In fact, at a 2011 hearing, “they told me Negro was an improvement over its earlier name,” she said, referring to a racial epithet.

Youngblood said her measure will call on Gov. Tom Corbett to either issue an executive order or form a commission to come up with a new name.

The governor’s office didn’t respond to a call seeking comment Friday.

She said she had been unaware of Gladden’s efforts, but the two have now talked about efforts to advance the idea on both sides of the mountain, perhaps by putting on a joint event either in Harrisburg or on top of the mountain.

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