Legislative Session 2020: `Negro Mountain’ Landmark to White Supremacy?

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By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
syoes@54.204.251.142

The history of “Negro Mountain,” in Garrett County, Md. is a dubious one.

The mountain, a 30-mile ridge of the Allegheny Mountains stretching North from Deep Creek Lake in Maryland, to the Casselman River in Pennsylvania, is allegedly named after a Black man. Legend has it a free Black man named Nemesis died during a battle with Indigenous Americans, specifically in defense of a White frontiersman named Thomas Cresap in 1756. Another story alleges a Black servant died on the mountain defending his employer, another White man named Captain Andrew Friend. But, the looming historical question is if the name of the man (Nemesis) who the mountain was allegedly named after, why isn’t it known as “Nemesis Mountain?”

Baltimore City Del. Nick Mosby has crafted legislation during this session that would set up a commission to study the history of “Negro Mountain” in Western Maryland. Mosby and others believe the name is symbolic of oppression and White supremacy, and he wants to rename it. (AFRO Photo)

In fact, some argue the original moniker of the Garrett County mountain was originally much more derogatory than Negro Mountain.

“What we’re asking is for there to be a commision formed to actually dig through the history and not let this folklore kind of make us okay with calling it Negro Mountain,” said Baltimore City Del. Nick Mosby, who represents the 40th Legislative District. “Because there are several indications, publications, historical incidents and facts that show that at one point it was actually `Ni–er Mountain,’ it wasn’t called `Negro Moutain,” added Mosby who is taking up the fight to rename the mountain that was pursued in the past by former Baltimore City Sen. Lisa Gladden and other legislators.

“So, I’m going to continue to push as hard as possible this session to convince my colleagues…I’m just asking that historians, fact finders, folks that are subject matter experts in this area really go and understand the history of the mountain, Negro Mountain and give it an appropriate name. The State Highway Administration took down all the signs for a reason. And I’m just asking folks to give us a chance for the renaming.”

The signs were taken down last Spring by the State Highway Administration (SHA). Subsequently, SHA officials had conversations about the history of Negro Mountain with members of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Lynn Bowman, a retired professor at Allegany College in Western Maryland and a member of the state’s Commission on African American History and Culture is the author of several books on Black American history. Bowman, who pushed for the removal of the Negro Mountain signage according to reporting by the Washington Post, says her research indicates an area on the west side of the mountain was called “Ni–er Hollow,” where Black people were lynched.

According to Mosby, Del. Wendell Beitzell, who represents District 1A of Garrett and Allegany counties has been resistant to changing the name of the mountain in the past. The AFRO reached out to Del. Beitzell for comment on this story, but his office did not reply to our request by AFRO press time this week. 

Like the Confederate statues that stood in the midst of Baltimore’s majority Black population for decades, the name Negro Mountain, with its nefarious history stands as a towering monument to White supremacy in the minds of some.

“I don’t look at it as a rise in White Supremacy…it’s more emboldened because it’s more acceptable. So, we see that playing out in all forms of government. And that’s why I think we’ve seen an increase of folks outwardly spewing what they’ve had inwardly,” said Mosby who points to historic racial disparities in education, the plight of the state’s HBCU’s currently engaged in an ongoing lawsuit with the state and the inequities of the criminal justice system, in disputing Maryland’s alleged status as a “progressive state.”

“I think that Maryland has a tremendous amount of challenges being progessive as it relates to the plight of Black folks,” he said. “And I think that’s always been our history.”