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Townshend’s ‘Negro Brook’ to keep name for now

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 2:44 PM EDT
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TOWNSHEND, Vt. (WCAX) - Most everybody agrees a brook in Townshend State Park needs a new name -- it’s been called Negro Brook since before the Civil War -- but they can’t agree on what to call it next.

“I hope we can put this rancor and discord behind us because if we can’t, there is no hope for racial justice,” said Bruce Post, chair of the State of Vermont Board of Libraries.

During an at-times heated meeting of the board on Thursday, commissioners didn’t approve a new name for the brook. Many wanted to name it after Susanna Toby Hussey, a Black woman who was an early settler of the town. But Hussey was dropped when some said it would be offensive to women. Then they went with Susana Toby, but it was pointed out that “toby” has been used as a slur against people of color.

“That term is still around, whether you feel it’s on page 100 of a webpage link, all the way to the first link you would find,” said Jason Broughton, the state librarian. So now the name Susanna Hussey is being considered again.

No matter what the new name is, the majority of people in town we spoke with are happy it will be renamed. “I’m extremely happy to hear about it. I’m happy for everybody. Everybody should be pleased that this is finally changing,” said Kenneth Hoffmann, a local resident.

“I had no idea that is what it was called, but I am very much in support of changing the name. I think it’s a great idea. A good way to keep our community moving,” said Elias Gradinger of Putney.

“I don’t agree with it. I think we should understand our history and be able to know about it, not hide it,” said Gary Delisle, who owns a camp in town.

Townshend State Park rangers say that since they opened Memorial Day weekend, none of their campers or hikers have had any questions or concerns about the brook’s name.

“The town selectboard agrees that the name change is in order. I also want to state that I am in agreement, as I have said to the three petitioners, yes, this is an admirable thing to do. The name should be updated, but what do we want to call it and what can we do to have a unifying petition?” Broughton said.

The petitioners will try to figure that out by the board’s next meeting in July.

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