A group of local Black lawmakers, community leaders as well as the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are calling for the Negrohead Lake in the city of Baytown, Texas, to be renamed.
This recent push comes after Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis co-sponsored a bill to have public properties bearing racially insensitive names removed when he was initially a senator over thirty years ago, KHOU reported.
“It’s hard to change people’s heart,” he said at a press conference on Monday. “The bill was approved in Texas but became difficult to pass on the federal level.”
Ellis also said the name is “derogatory to our children and it fuels and perpetuates that racism is okay.” Back in the early 1960s, the lake actually had a much more explicit name – Ni**er Lake – until it was changed to what it’s known now.
“Initially, they used the N word that I won’t use on television,” Ellis said.
The NAACP is now calling for the lake to be renamed after Henry Doyle – the first Black person to graduate from Houston’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law and the first African-American appellate court justice in Texas. Previously known as the Texas State University for Negroes, Doyle was also the first African American to apply at the institution, according to Click2Houston. The university was established by the Texas State University for Black students as they weren’t allowed to study with their White mates at the time.
The move to have the lake renamed is also being backed by some local lawmakers.
“As a liberated Democrat — this is not about Democrats, it’s not about Republicans, I say liberated Democrat because I am unbought and unbossed — I find the utilization of the word ‘negro’ to denote a person of African ancestry to be greatly offensive,” U.S. Rep. Al Green (D-Houston) said at the press conference. “It connotes a caricature of human inferiority reminiscent of a bygone era when blackness was defined by a predominantly white power structure.”
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee also said: “If we are a people that don’t remember our history – and that is of people of all colors – we are doomed to repeat the ugliness of racism again.”
The mayor of Baytown, Brandon Capetillo, has also thrown his weight behind the push, saying the city council will discuss a resolution to support the lake being named after Doyle on Thursday, KHOU reported.
The new name, however, has to be approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.