Derogatory name...
by Derogatory name...
Jan 23, 2013 | 1003 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I am thrilled to see the momentum behind the most recent move to change the name of Negro Bill Canyon to one that more accurately honors William Grandstaff and reflects the time we live in.

“Negro” is a derogatory word! I grew up in the 70s, and in my time I have never known it to be an acceptable word to use. Yes, there was a time in this country when it was widely used, but that time is long gone.

In fact, in the 60s when the name of Mr. Grandstaff’s canyon home was changed from “nigger” to “Negro Bill” there was already a push within the Civil Rights Movement to stop using the word “negro” – a word which had been given to African American people to discriminate against them and to label them as different, as second class citizens, or worse. 

I would like to address two main points:

1. The history of William Grandstaff as the first African American settler in our beautiful town must be preserved/presented! But the sheer act of having the word “negro” attached to a trailhead does not, by itself, present locals and tourists with his history. What it presents is a reflection of outdated times and opportunities to make people feel ashamed (I don’t even send tourists there because I’m embarrassed to say the word). A plaque at the trailhead, instead, could describe the man and his place and significance in Moab in the late 1870s.

2. The name has already been changed! In the 1960s there was recognition that “nigger” was offensive and the name was “updated” to “negro.” The time to change an offensive name has come again – in fact, it’s long overdue!

I know that we’re not 100 percent united as a town on this, but support weaves through us and comes from tourists and Moab-lovers from far away. Let’s not fear this, but listen to the voices calling for change. Look how far we’ve come from a country where only white, land-owning men could vote.

My vote – once again – is to restore dignity to William Grandstaff by changing the name of his canyon.

P.S. We might note that the recently added campground across the street was named “Granstaff” (albeit, misspelled) not “Negro Bill” campground! 

—Sarah Barstow


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