DEPUE, Ill. (AP) — Efforts to change the roughly 200-year-old racist name of a creek in northern Illinois have gained traction.
An 11-mile (18-kilometer) waterway in the DePue area was named Negro Creek after the DePue area’s first Black settler built a cabin at the mouth of the creek in 1829, according to the The (Peoria) Journal Star. DePue is about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.
Former resident Amy Urbanowski is among those pushing for the name change. She has received support from the Bureau County Board and a local NAACP branch. She sent the details to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which approves such changes. In the coming weeks, the agency will consider changing the name to Adams, the surname of the Black pioneer. Records of a first name haven’t been located.
“Changing the name of the creek is important,” she said, “because it’s good to reflect on how the names of towns and villages are all historically and respectively named after people, not their race.”
Urbanowski and others say they’ve heard people refer to the creek by a racial slur over the years.
At least one area elected official disagrees with the possible change.
Ladd Village President Frank Cattani said he played on the creek as a child. At an August public meeting about the name change, he used a racial slur several times in describing the waterway, saying that’s how many people still refer to it, according to the newspaper and other news media accounts.
A village trustee asked if it was appropriate for people to use the slur.
“I can’t change what they’re calling it,” Cattani said. “I’m telling you what the name is: Negro Creek. What’s ‘negro’ mean? It means ‘Black,’ not ‘Black person.'”
Cattani didn’t vote on the name-change endorsement, which carried 5-1. He hasn’t responded to requests for comment, including a message left Wednesday by The Associated Press.
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