State naming bills halted, including mountain monikers

March 29, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

ANNAPOLIS — Legislation to name things in Maryland — including renaming two mountains — has come to a halt.

A state Senate committee decided Tuesday to turn down a series of bills requesting days and months honoring groups and individual people.

Also rejected was a resolution to change the names of Negro Mountain in Garrett County and Polish Mountain in Allegany County.

Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, D-Baltimore City, who is black, had sponsored the resolution to find new names “to reflect more accurately the history and culture of the region within which they are located.”

Western Maryland lawmakers took umbrage, arguing that Negro Mountain was named to honor a courageous black man killed fighting Indians in the 1750s. Polish Mountain initially was Polished Mountain and had nothing to do with ethnicity, they said; the name was shortened and pronunciation changed over the years.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City, the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee’s chairwoman, said Tuesday that several proposals for new names and designations will be rejected, for now.

Instead, a group working with state archivist Edward C. Papenfuse would look comprehensively at naming proposals, for historical context and appropriateness.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, put forward the “Work Group on State Historic Designations” idea in a March 10 letter to Papenfuse.

They suggested including history experts, the Maryland Historical Society, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, and the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture.

“Through the consultation and advice from historical experts, we can ensure that well-intentioned efforts to recognize additional historical ideas or figures do not cause us to forget or lose the history, both good and bad, that has made Maryland the place it is today,” the letter said.

The resolution to rename Negro Mountain caused a stir last month.

Del. Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, who is white, suggested that the United Negro College Fund and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People might be next if the state starts scrutinizing the decency of names.

Even if it passed, Gladden’s resolution might not have had any effect. Because Negro Mountain is in two states, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has jurisdiction over the name. The board rejected a similar name-change request nearly 20 years ago.

The work-group idea also stopped other naming proposals before the Senate committee Tuesday, including:
German-American Heritage Month (October)
Korean American Day (Jan. 13)
Young Heroes Day (first Monday in October)
Irish-American Heritage Month (October)
Ronald Reagan Day (Feb. 6), a bill sponsored by Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, and Del. Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick/Washington

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