The name of a small waterway in southeastern Vermont has been changed after a state committee determined the previous name was a relic of history that needed to be thrown out to ensure a welcoming atmosphere to everyone.
The Vermont Board of Libraries, which is in charge of what to call mountains, lakes and other natural features in the state, voted Tuesday to change the name of Negro Brook, which winds its way around the base of Bald Mountain and through Townshend State Park in Windham County.
This week’s meeting, which is viewable online , ended with the official name of the brook changing to Huzzy Brook, honoring James and Susanna Huzzy. The couple were Black residents of the area before the Civil War.
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In 2021, NECN and NBC10 Boston reported on a petition to the Board of Libraries to change the name, which was described by petitioners as offensive and unwelcoming — especially since it runs through a state park.
“Me personally, as a Black person, I do find the word ‘negro’ offensive,” Alex Hazzard, who petitioned for the name change along with two others, said at an emotional meeting on the topic in June 2021.
The 2021 petitioners had also proposed naming the brook after Susanna Huzzy. However, they recommended the brook’s name reflect her maiden name, which was Toby.
Even though all board members agreed at the 2021 meeting that the name should be changed, fresh divisions emerged over the appropriateness of the name Toby for the brook. A debate at the time centered around how the word “toby” was a pejorative term for Black people. Some also questioned whether Huzzy could sound similar to “hussy,” a slur for women.
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However, the Brattleboro Reformer reports that the meeting this week was far less contentious than the 2021 discussion.
The 2022 petitioner to the Vermont Board of Libraries, Townshend’s Lynne Shea, worked to develop support from the Townshend Select Board and the Townshend Historical Society, according to documents the library board posted online.
Shea, who told the Reformer any associations with the word “hussy” would be “fairly archaic” today, described her thrill with the unanimous vote in favor of the change to Huzzy Brook.
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“I was really happy. It seems like it’s been going on forever,” she said in an interview with Susan Smallheer of the Reformer. “Everyone was in favor of changing the name.”
Smallheer wrote that the process to officially rename the brook federally is underway, as is an effort to install a commemorative plaque in the Townshend State Park describing the story of the Huzzy family.