Race-Based Names Dot the Landscape

Stephen Morton for The New York Times
Published: October 6, 2011

ATLANTA — The onetime name of Gov. Rick Perry’s Texas hunting camp is currently the most famous example of an egregious race-based place name, but it is not the only one.

Consider Runaway Negro Creek, which flows near a state park outside Savannah, Ga. The name is printed on nautical charts, but park rangers find it so uncomfortable to use, they try to avoid saying it.

It is one of several hundred places that have the word “Negro” in their names and still exist on government maps and in the local vernacular in dozens of states.

They are vestiges of racial attitudes that not that long ago made it acceptable to label a piece of property once leased by Gov. Rick Perry’s family as Niggerhead, which had been painted in block letters on a large rock at the entrance to the rural northern Texas hunting camp. The word was once so common it was used as a brand name for everyday items like soap, canned shrimp and tobacco.

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About Lisa Randle

Lisa is the Education Outreach Coordinator for Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and the Site Coordinator for the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program at the College of Charleston. Lisa is currently working on a PhD in historic archaeology at the University of South Carolina.

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