Maryland State senator, Lisa Gladden has proposed a bill to rename Negro Mountain. She wants the mountain to be named after the Negro in question, who according to various traditions was either an African-American by the name of Mr. Nemesis or Mr. Goliath.
Historical records contain two stories about the naming of Negro Mountain, which rises to 3,075 feet in Maryland, and 3,213 feet in Pennsylvania. In one account, a free black frontiersman named Nemesis was killed during a skirmish with Indians in 1756 while serving in a militia during the French and Indian War.
In the other version, a large black servant named Goliath was killed while protecting his master, Capt. Andrew Friend, from an Indian attack on their hunting party.
The proposal is opposed by senator Kevin Kelly, who (apparently in all seriousness) warned, “Renaming the mountains creates a slippery slope.”
Goliath, said Kelly, is the bad guy in the Bible and again, people will assume it was named after the biblical Goliath rather than a local black hero.
There is a sensible point lurking somewhere behind Kelly’s obvious reactionary bigotry. That is, a couple of centuries ago, even the names of African-American slaves reflected the prejudices of their legal owners. The Bible creates its share of fearful enemies, and the Giant Philistine is one of the more infamous of these. As the Afronista says:
In some tales, his name is Goliath, indicating that he is big… and black. Somehow, they are always big and black. No slave is ever described as normal sized.
Gladden’s proposal follows the U.S. Board of Geographic Names’ earlier rejection, in the mid-1990s, of a change in name from Negro Mountain to “Black Hero Mountain”.
How about Black Goliath Mountain – after the comic-book hero?