According to The Baltimore Sun, signs with elevation information for Negro Mountain, a portion of the Allegheny Mountains that stretches from Maryland to Pennsylvania, have been taken down by the State Highway Administration. A spokeswoman from the agency said the action was taken in April over concerns of racial insensitivity.
In all, four signs were removed. Two were previously placed along Interstate 68 and the others on U.S. Alternate Route 40. The Cumberland Times-News first reported on the missing signs and spoke with people affiliated with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration. One community liaison was unclear why the signs had been removed, but Lora Rakowski, acting director for the agency’s office of communications explained that it was done in the community’s interest.
“We continue to work with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the local community to better understand the interests of all stakeholders,” Rakowski said in an email to the Cumberland Times-News.
Though the origin of the mountain’s name is debatable, two well-circulated theories include the heroic death of a Black man during a fight with American Indians during the French and Indian War.
“Nemesis, a black frontiersman … was killed here while fighting Indians with Maryland frontiersman Thomas Cresap in the 1750s,” reads a marker near the mountain. “Legend tells us that he had a premonition of his death. In his honor, they named this mountain after him.”
Lynn Bowman, an African-American author whose written on the history of the area, told the Times-News that a third theory attributes the name to that area being a former place of African American lynchings. Though she added that it’s unlikely.
Regardless of how Negro Mountain received its name, it seems doubtful that the signs marking its elevation will reappear.
“I have heard both stories but I’ve never seen corroborating facts to support either and would be interested to know more,” Clory Jackson, creator of “The Brownsville Project,” an initiative to elevate the forgotten Black community of Frostburg, Maryland, shared with the Times-News by email. “In my opinion, the name ‘Negro Mountain’ is antiquated. I’d love to see the community use transformative justice to choose a new name that helps us remember Blacks in Appalachia.”