The Atlanta Braves, The Dewey Decimal System, And 9 Other Places And Things You Might Not Have Known Have Pretty Problematic Names

·9 min read

In recent years, there has been a push to rename places, brands, and objects that honor problematic figures and moments in American history, or disrespect marginalized groups.

protestors with signs
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In fact, Yellowstone National Park recently announced that Mount Doane, originally named for Gustavus Doane, is being renamed First Peoples Mountain to pay tribute to Native Americans. While Doane was one of the first people to explore Yellowstone, he also was responsible for the deaths of over 170 Native Americans during the Marias Massacre in 1870.

mountain in Yellowstone
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But despite some brands and places swapping out their offensive names, there are still countless examples of places and things that probably need a name (or logo!) change ASAP.

1.Safe to say that any school named after President Woodrow Wilson should be renamed. Wilson was originally honored for his role in negotiating peace during World War I, but also held incredibly racist beliefs. During his time as president, Wilson re-segregated government agencies, including the US Treasury, that had been desegregated since Reconstruction. He also openly supported the Ku Klux Klan.

a portrait of Woodrow Wilson
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In 2020, Princeton University removed Wilson's name from a residence hall and the university's school for public and international affairs, following years of student protests. A 2019 study shows that there were 51 public schools in the United States named after Wilson, with several of them actively seeking out a name change.

speakers at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School
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2.While several sports teams have changed their names in recent years, there has been continued pressure for the Atlanta Braves to change not only their name, but their tomahawk chop tradition. Some critics of the name say that it dehumanizes Native Americans.

a baseball player
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The team's tomahawk chop, a gesture performed by the crowd during every home game, involves fans raising their arms and performing a mock war chant. Despite calls to end the tradition, both the team and Major League Baseball have stood by it. In 2021, the Braves issued a statement reading, "The Atlanta Braves proudly elevates Native American culture and language on a continuous basis. Our efforts are ever evolving, and always in partnership with the Native American community." The Kansas City Chiefs also perform a tomahawk chop at their home games.

baseball fans doing the tomahawk chop
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3.The Chicago Blackhawks have also been resisting public pressure to change their name and logo. The hockey team was named for Black Hawk, a leader of the Sac and Fox Nation. The team insists that their name and logo honor his life instead of perpetuating stereotypes. While the team used to work with the American Indian Center of Chicago to educate the public about Native American culture and traditions, the American Indian Center ended the partnership in 2019 because they felt the team's name was harmful.

the Blackhawks logo on ice
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As several other teams with Native American names and traditions began to consider changing their names in 2020, the Blackhawks issued a statement that they are keeping their name. "We recognize there is a fine line between respect and disrespect, and we commend other teams for their willingness to engage in that conversation. Moving forward, we are committed to raising the bar even higher to expand awareness of Black Hawk and the important contributions of all Native American people." The Chicago Tribune published an op-ed in 2021 recommending that the team change their name to the Hawks.

A Blackhawk hockey player
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4.Throughout the 20th century, there were thousands of sundown towns in the United States. These towns were all-white communities where Black people were forbidden within city limits. These communities would intentionally exclude and intimidate minorities through a combination of laws and violence. Some towns even extended their scope and barred Asians, Jewish people, Mexicans, and Native Americans from living there. While many of these towns have been able to overcome their history of racism, some of them still have names that reflect their pasts.

A sign that says, "We want white tenants in our white community"
Denver 7 ABC / Via

One of the most notorious sundown towns in America is Anna, Illinois. The name Anna came from the phrase "Ain't No N****rs Allowed." To this day, Anna still maintains its name. Over 90% of the town's residents are white.

an exit sign for Anna
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5.In the 1940s, the Chiquita Banana company introduced a cartoon banana wearing high heels as an attempt to appeal to Americans, as bananas were relatively new to the United States at the time and were seen as an exotic fruit. In 1987, the company decided to revamp their logo, and introduced a woman wearing high heels and a hat made of fruit, known as Chiquita Banana.

The animated Chiquita Banana woman
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Many opposed the logo change, saying the switch to a logo featuring a woman further emphasized the stereotype that Latin women are hypersexual. Despite calls to change the logo, it appears the company is sticking by it. In fact, the logo even won a Pop Icon award in 2019.

the Chiquita Banana logo; a woman wearing a similar dress and hat holding bananas speaking at an event
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6.John Wayne Airport, located in Orange County, California, has come under fire for its name after people pointed out that Wayne had some pretty problematic beliefs. In 1971, Wayne told Playboy that he believed in white supremacy and said that he didn't feel bad that generations of Black people had been enslaved. “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility,” Wayne said in the interview. “I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

the outside of John Wayne Airport
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Wayne also expressed anti-gay views, using a slur when discussing the movie Midnight Cowboy. During the 1973 Academy Awards, Wayne attempted to storm the stage when Best Actor winner Marlon Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist, onstage on his behalf to speak out about the way Native Americans were treated in Hollywood. In 2020, a resolution to rename the airport was sent to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, but the name remains.

a portrait of John Wayne
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7.A 2020 study revealed that there are over 240 schools in 20 different states that are named after Confederate generals. The majority of these schools are concentrated in seven states — Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Alabama and South Carolina both have laws restricting changing the names of these schools due to their Confederate past.

the outside of Stonewall Jackson Senior High School
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So, who are these schools named after? The most common names are Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate army; Thomas Saltus Lubbock, a Texas Ranger; Lucius Q.C. Lamar, a Mississippi politician; Sidney Lanier, a musician and Confederate war private; Samuel Pasco, a senator from Florida; Jefferson Davis, who was president of the Confederacy; Stonewall Jackson, a leading general in the Confederate army; and Nathan Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Each of these men have at least eight public schools in America named after them.

Robert E Lee; Nathan Forrest, Jefferson Davis
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8.Not even libraries are safe from problematic figures. The Dewey Decimal system, which categorizes books in libraries based on subject matter, was founded by Melvil Dewey, who was racist, and held misogynistic and antisemitic views. Dewey refused to include books by Black authors in their proper subject areas, and instead, shelved all books by authors of color together so they wouldn't mix with those by white authors.

an illustration of Dewey
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Several women accused him of harassment and unwanted sexual advances, which led to his removal from the American Library Association. Some of Dewey's peers felt so strongly that he should face consequences for his harmful views that they petitioned the state of New York to remove him as state librarian. While he was not removed, they issued a public statement rebuking his views. He later resigned from the role because of the pressure he faced following the petition. In 2019, the American Library Association changed the name of their highest award from the "Melvil Dewey Medal" to the "Medal of Excellence," but the name of the system remains.

a nonfiction shelf in a library
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9.There are over 660 federally recognized places, bodies of water, and mountain ranges that use the word "squaw" in their names. "Squaw" is a slur typically directed toward Native American women.

a mountain and lake
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In March 2022, the White House announced a task force led by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is the first Native American cabinet member, that hopes to rename as many of these places as possible. They are seeking out names from Native American tribes to replace the slur with. All proposed names will have to be approved by the Board of Geographic Names, the federal agency that standardizes the names of places in America.

Deb Haaland
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10.In the United States, there are over 40 cities and counties named after Andrew Jackson, who was the seventh president of the United States. Jackson was a strong supporter of slavery, and at one point, owned 161 slaves, many of whom he brought to the White House.

a painting of Andrew Jackson
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Jackson was also incredibly cruel to Native Americans. He passed the Indian Removal Act, which displaced over 50,000 Native Americans and opened up their territory to white settlers. Many of the displaced people died during forced removal efforts like the Trail of Tears. Several parks, schools, and roads named after Jackson have been renamed, while statues of the former president have been removed or relocated. However, many of the towns, including the capital of Mississippi, still bear their names in Jackson's honor.

an image that says "Greetings from Jackson, Mississippi"
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11.A study of 16 national parks in the United States found that all of them contained at least one monument, feature, or area that was named after a colonizer, person who held racist ideologies, or supporter of Native American genocide. In fact, places named after Black or Indigenous people are outnumbered 2 to 1 by places named for colonizers. Within the 16 parks reviewed in the study, only 4.8% of places were named in a way that honored the Native Americans who once lived there.

a sign that says, "Yellowstone National Park"
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Some of the places where name changes have been petitioned include Mount Rainier, which was named after Peter Rainier, a Royal Navy general who fought against the United States during the Revolutionary War; and Jeff Davis Peak, a Nevada mountain named after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

Mount Rainier; Peter Rainier
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Any other places, brands, or things that are named after problematic figures or moments in history come to mind? Let us know in the comments!