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Return to Pass Run

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Pass Run.jpg

New signage has recently been installed at Pass Run creek, which was formerly named Mulatto Run.

By Gracie Hart Brooks

Editor

A local waterway has been returned to its former name.

Last year, a committee of the Madison Equality Project (MEP) began pursuing the renaming of Madison County’s Mulatto Run due to the derogatory and offensive nature of the word “mulatto.” The term refers to a person of mixed race.

“The Madison Equality Project thinks the name doesn’t belong in Madison anymore,” committee member Becky Thompson said at the time.

The MEP is a grassroots campaign to bring people together to dismantle systemic racism and promote equal opportunity for everyone who lives and works in Madison County. Since its creation during the summer of 2020, the group has worked on numerous items including a virtual town hall and the name change of Mulatto Run.

According to land records, the creek was originally named Pass Run, but was changed to Mulatto Run in approximately 1842. It’s unknown why the name was changed. However, the creek isn’t alone in its naming. According to the United States Geological Survey, 10 other geographic features in the country contain the word “mulatto” including Mulatto Bayou, a bay in Santa Rosa, FL and Mulatto Branch, a stream in North Carolina.

It’s not the first geographic feature to be renamed in Madison County due to its derogatory word choice. In February 2017, the Board of Geographic Names (BGN) approved the renaming of a two-mile long creek near White Oak Canyon, changing its name to Tims River. The creek had been referred to as Negro Run since 1963 when a then more derogatory name was softened under an order from the Secretary of the Interior. Because the creek was on federal land, the renaming process took years, beginning with a letter sent to the National Park Service in November 2015. Through the long process, Tims River was found to be the name of the creek on an 18th century deed and was ultimately approved by the BGN.

That process was used as a blueprint for the renaming of Mulatto Run. Although not on federal land, the renaming process was still a long one taking several months. The BGN officially approved the name change at its Sept. 9 meeting, nearly a year after the process began.

The change was officially made in the Geographic Names Information System, the nation’s official geographic names repository and new signage has been installed.

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