FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Just east of Victorville in California’s Mojave Desert two bluffs rise 3,000-feet from the valley floor. A 1949 map by the U.S. Geological Survey officially gave them the name locals had long called them: Pickaninny Buttes.
The name, a pejorative term that represents a caricature of black children, was likely bestowed because African Americans attempted a settlement near the Lucerne Valley at the turn of the last century. Whatever the reason, the name today has the propensity to shock.
But it is just one of thousands of places across the United States saddled with names that are an insight into our divisive past, when demeaning names given to areas settled by ethnic or racial minorities were recorded on official government maps — and often stuck.