Utah Canyon To Keep ‘Negro Bill’ Name

Source: Moab Sun News

The canyon will retain its name.

In a report from the Associated Press, Utah’s Negro Bill Canyon will retain its name after a consensus failed to be met from minority groups that included local and national branches of the NAACP, as well as the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Commission.

The Utah Committee on Geographic Names voted 8-2 on the canyon’s name, with the committee’s recommendation headed to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is expected to make a final decision on the canyon’s name later this year. The local and national branches of the NAACP argued that the canyon’s name is not offensive and preserves the history of William Grandstaff, the black rancher and prospector who the canyon is named after.

Jeanetta Williams, president of NAACP’s tri-state conference area of Idaho-Utah-Nevada, supported keeping the name as is saying, “To sanitize it destroys the history and the background of what it is. It’s a word we often use in history, it’s in titles…It’s no more uncomfortable saying the word negro than it is saying African-American or black.”

Williams also cited how other organizations have the word negro in its name, such as the National Council of Negro Women.

However, Jasen Lee, a member of the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, opposed keeping the canyon’s original name.

“It is inexplicable to me that today in the 21st century that reasonably intelligent people who I know have kindness in their hearts found it acceptable to allows this name to continue to exist,” Lee said. “You can’t name something using that descriptor today. It’s hurtful to people like myself who are of a certain age that they know what this means. It speaks poorly of our state, of which I’m a proud resident.”

The proposal to change the canyon’s name first came about in 1999 but failed at the state and federal levels when Utah counties and state and federal land management agencies did not support it. However, last September the Federal Bureau of Land Management administratively changed the signs at the “Negro Bill” trailhead to instead read “Grandstaff Trailhead.”


Elijah C. Watson

Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When he's not writing he's listening to Sade and crying or watching My Hero Academia with his partner.

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Elijah C. Watson

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