Here is a man that accomplished more than most white men in the 1800s, yet the white settlers couldn’t see past his skin color? So they could only speak of him by calling him Negro Bill, degrading all his efforts to make a name for himself and become successful in the Moab area.
County council members and NAACP members claim the changing of Negro Bill Canyon to William Grandstaff Canyon cannot happen due to history purposes. What “history” are they speaking of? Are they speaking of the American Civil Rights movement when Malcolm X, objected to the word, preferring Black because he associated the word Negro with the long history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination that treated African Americans as second-class citizens, or worse. Are they speaking about the 1970s when the word “Negro” fell out of favor in the United States? Lets not embrace our settler’s discrimination and patronization.
Being in the hospitality industry, when I inform tourists about the great hike up Negro Bill Canyon, I don’t get the response of enthusiasm – it’s more on the lines of revulsion for Moab’s discrimination. Granted it might be past discrimination, but from my experiences most of them get the impression they are visiting a beautiful area full of racism. I often find myself apologizing on the behalf of the first white settlers.
As some of you may know, William Grandstaff was a rancher, a farmer, a prospector and a homesteader. He owned land as well as livestock. Keep in mind this was in the 1800’s! I would say he certainly established himself. Being of a different race during those times was not easy and he conquered a great deal. So why do we still refer to him as Negro Bill? Shouldn’t we stop defining people as belonging to a certain ethnicity, and get in sync with the modern world?
I believe there is a misconception going around that those who want to change the name will take away the disgrace that was once perpetuated and in a sense “forgetting” about it. This is not the case, his entire life story is important and should not be forgotten. The point is, wouldn’t you want to be remembered for WHO you were and not WHAT you were?