Ni--erhead: Not the Only Racist Place Name

Plenty of names of towns and geographic features recall our country's troubling racial history. 

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As everyone knows by now, GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry owns a hunting camp in Texas known to many locals as "Niggerhead," a name that appears on a large rock on the property. There's a dispute over whether Perry's father painted over the name as soon as he bought the land, as Perry says he did.

One thing about which there's no dispute: "Niggerhead" is in good company when it comes to having been given a name that brings to mind derogatory attitudes toward nonwhite people in this country.

According to Slate, there are hundreds, at least, of these towns and geographic features with outdated and -- to many -- offensive nomenclature.

In 1962, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names replaced "Nigger" with "Negro" in the names of at least 174 places. "Jap" was switched to "Japanese" in 1974 in dozens of places. But we still have Arizona's Dago Spring and Gringo Gulch, New York's Polack Swamp and Chinaman Bayou in Louisiana, just to name a few.

No to mention, Slate reports, the U.S. government still lists more than 800 places with "squaw" in their names. (To many it's a pejorative reference to Native American women with sexual undertones, which are clear in South Dakota's Squaw Humper Dam, Squaw Humper Table and Little Squaw-Humper Creek.)

Even if you aren't planning a run for president, there's something you can do if there's a place with a name like this in your area. State boards on geographic names are generally open to petitions to change controversial map labels, as long as you suggest a suitable alternative.

Read more at Slate.

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