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Negro Brook in southern Vermont is getting a new name

A map with green lines
Howard Weiss-Tisman
VPR File
The Townshend State Park map displaying Negro Brook. The Vermont Board of Libraries recently approved renaming the brook after some of its first Black residents.

The Vermont State Board of Libraries last week unanimously approved renaming Negro Brook in Windham County to Huzzy Brook.

The brook, which runs through the Townshend State Forest before emptying into the West River, will now be named after James and Susanna Huzzy.

They were some of the first black settlers in Townshend in the early 1800s. Activists worked with the local select board and historical society for the name change, which was finalized on Oct. 11.

Evan Litwin and Alex Hazzard petitioned for the name change along with historian Elise Guyette. Members from the Windham County branch of the NAACP also joined in lively discussions about renaming the brook.

“We're honoring the Huzzys, but we're also seeing them as representatives of a lot of people whose stories haven't been told.”
Lynne Shea, Landmark College

Lynne Shea is a resident of Townshend and a professor at Landmark College. She worked with the team that led the renaming process. The group learned of the Huzzy family through census records.

“We know that there are approximately 15 Black, African Americans in Townsend at about 1820. We don't really know that much about their actual experience here,” Shea said. “We're honoring the Huzzys, but we're also seeing them as representatives of a lot of people whose stories haven't been told.”

She got involved after the first attempt of renaming the brook last year was unsuccessful. The earlier effort was led by people from Burlington and broke down very quickly due to misunderstandings.

This time the group took a more local approach, collaborating with community members to grow support for the name change.

More from Vermont Public: 'How Does One Get Accuracy?': The Complicated Conversation Around Renaming Negro Brook

This year’s petition had signatures from Townsend residents combined with the support of the local select board and historical society.

Sherwood Lake, chairman of the Townsend Select Board, said he was pleased to hear more community voices this time. He said this process could be a blueprint for addressing harmful names in the future.

“If there's any more of these things out there, these named locations that kind of have outlived their effectiveness and their purpose, this is the way to do it," Lake said.

He said he expects there will be more landmarks and areas to rename.

“Two hundred years from now, I'm sure terms we use every day are going to be antiquated and have some negative connotations," Lake said. "We need to come to the table, discuss and work together to solve some of these things, so that it doesn't get to a real nasty point.”

The federal process of changing the name is ongoing. Federally-recognized Indigenous tribes have 60 days to weigh in.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Marlon Hyde @HydeMarlon.

Marlon Hyde was Vermont Public’s first news fellow, from 2021 to 2023.
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