Deeper context...
Dec 20, 2012 | 673 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I read with interest the discussion regarding changing the name of Negro Bill Canyon to William Grandstaff Canyon. It is a discussion that is a lot more telling about the respondents than it is about our illustrious pioneer, who happened to be an African American.

Old Bill must be laughing himself silly watching white folks argue over just how he would wish to be commemorated. A black man in Utah – how strange!

Probably not politically correct to refer to someone in such racial terms. But then again, Bill’s surname, “Grandstaff,” was most likely the result of being the property of one George Grandstaff, a slaveholder of Shenandoah, Va. In census records William didn’t even have a name; he was simply referred to as a “male” of a given age, who was “mulatto.” One of 10 slaves owned by Mr. George Grandstaff.

Herein lies the sad truth – that as a result of the horrific institution of slavery, human beings like Bill Grandstaff lost everything, including their African names and the ancient clan history attached to them. So when we rail in our self-righteous indignation at terms defined in other times, perhaps we should look for the deeper context in which to define the world around us.

—Mike Benefield

Redmond, Ore.

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