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These horribly offensive towns actually still exist in America

Illustration for article titled These horribly offensive towns actually still exist in America

Negro Mountain, Wetback Tank Reserve, and Jewtown might sound like nicknames your "old fashioned" (see: racist) grandfather gave to the parts of town he didn't like shopping in, but the sad truth is that these are the actual names of real places all over America.

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It's hard to believe that in 2014, there's still places out there with names that crudely reference the body parts of Native American women or have official seals that illustrate white guys thumping on minorities, but as you'll see in this list, some progress moves slowly. Really slowly.

Take a deep breath, make a guess at where these unfortunately-named places are located, then click the name to show it on the map. You might be surprised which offensive landmarks are right in your own backyard.

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Negro Mountain

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Legend says that on this particular mountain there was a huge battle in which Cresap was engaged with the Native Americans. During the fight, Cresap's slave was mortally wounded while defending his master, and so the mountain was named "in his honor"

There has been an ongoing battle to rename the land since 2007, but has been repeatedly voted down. Sure, the name seems fairly crass, but professor Christopher Bracey, a law professor and associate professor of African and African-American studies has said:

"I must confess I have a slightly different take on it… Here we have a mountain, whose name was intended to be a testament to Negro bravery. It seems rather crass and unsophisticated to name it Negro Mountain, but the intentions were strong."

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Nigton

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The tiny town of Nigton only boasted about 80 residents back in 2000 - not a bad number for a place that lost its post office back in the 40's, but some residents, particularly those of the former slaves that actually founded the town, wish it would lose its name as well.

The state historical society is very quick to point out that the name, which clearly references the town founders, each of them black, was suggested by Jeff Carter, a former slave turned civic leader.

Wetback Tank Reserve

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It's pretty difficult to find any real information about this rural reservoir's history, but while there might be a slim chance that Beaner Lake was named after a prolific lima bean farmer, Wetback Tank makes its derogatory intentions crystal clear.

Squaw Tit

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In 2003, the name of this mountain was officially changed to Piestewa Peak after a decade-long battle led by Jack Jackson, a Navajo man who also happened to be a state Representative. Although the name has finally been changed, that hasn't stopped many people from using the old one.

There exist numerous other "Squaw's Tit" mountain peaks around North America, including one in Canada, though increasing public outrage is ensuring that their numbers have been steadily dwindling.

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Darkey Springs

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Darkey Springs is a rural town located squarely in White County, so I think we can make a pretty solid guess as to where the name came from.

Its location isn't exactly surprising.

Whitesboro

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As if the name alone wasn't a tip off, this particular town secures an entry into this list solely based on it's official seal. It looks so much like a joke from Parks and Recreation that I wouldn't blame you for thinking it's fake, but I assure you, it's very real.

The image, which appears on all of the Whitesboro's police cars, stationary, and website, shows a pale guy with a mullet strangling a very red Native American caricature. Of course, the town elders say that the scene, which has been on the seal since the early 1900s, depicts a "friendly wrestling match".

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Sure it does.

Squaw Humper Dam

Finally, as if Squaw Tit wasn't offensive enough, welcome to Squaw Humper Dam, where angry locals (and even angrier Native Americans) have been trying to get the derogatory name changed. In fact, they've done such a good job scrubbing it from maps that it's near impossible to find images of it online.

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It's been a long battle, but as of April 30th of last year, the process to change the dam's official name to Tahc'a Okute Mni Onaktake, which I can't pronounce, but sounds a hell of a lot nicer.

So why haven't more of these town names been changed? Interestingly enough, the US board on Geographic Names has a policy on the matter of racist place names that quite literally says "please don't bother us about it..."

POLICY V: DEROGATORY NAMES

The guiding principle of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for the names of places, features, and areas in the United States and its territories is to adopt for official Federal use the names found in present-day local usage. An exception to this principle occurs when a name is shown to be highly offensive or derogatory to a particular racial or ethnic group, gender, or religious group. In such instances, the Board does not approve use of the names for Federal maps, charts, and other publications.

The Board, however, is conservative in this matter and prefers to interfere as little as possible within the use of names in everyday language because attitudes and perceptions of words considered to be pejorative vary between individuals and can change connotation from one generation to another. Geographic names are part of the historical record of the United States, and that record may be either distorted or disrupted by the elimination of names associated with particular groups of Americans. Such unwarranted action by the Board could, in time, be a disservice to the people the process is meant to protect.

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In the mid 60's, the board ruled that the N-Bomb was not cool to use for place names, and mandated that it was officially replaced with "negro" on maps. Three years later they added "Jap" to that list, and to this day, both of those slurs remain the only two names specifically outlawed by the federal government.

I'd say it might be time for a new board meeting right about now.

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Did I miss an offensive town name? Let me know in the comments. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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