The Unbelievably Racist Name Of This Landmark Will Blow Your Mind

Entrance Sign For Negro Bill Canyon/Mprintz/Wikimedia/Public Domain


There is a lot of power in a name, which is why this news was exciting for many.

In October 2017, The U.S. Board of Geographic Names officially renamed Negro Bill Canyon to Grandstaff Canyon in Moab, Utah. The canyon is named after William Grandstaff, a Black rancher and prospector.

William Grandstaff claimed the canyon in 1877 to mine for ores. Due to his involvement in the local saloon and nomination as a constable in the local election, it was clear that he was well-liked. However, after being accused of smuggling whiskey to Native Americans, he was forced to give up his canyon.

Because he was Black, he assumed that he would be found guilty, so he fled from his home, spending the rest of his days in Colorado. His death was honored on the front page of the Glenwood Spring Post and the Avalanche Echo.

The name change has been a long time coming. It was originally named “Nigger Bill Canyon” in the 1800s. After years of having a blatantly racist name, in the 1960s, the canyon’s name was changed to Negro Bill Canyon. After this change, a proposal was put forward three times in 1999, 2013 and 2015 to change the name from Negro Bill Canyon to something that justly honors the rancher.

While many welcomed the recent name change, some claimed it was unnecessary. The NAACP felt that the name didn’t need to be changed because it wasn’t offensive. A Moab resident felt that changing the name hides history, but the Utah Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission said that the name was “blatant racism.”

“Negro Bill,” or the even worse, “Nigger Bill” doesn’t honor him. It, in fact, is backhanded and disrespectful. Preserving history is possible without preserving racism.

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