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Missouri's Former Slave Auction Site at Center of Fight to Rename I-70 in Montgomery County

Categories: News, Politics

slavery-image-1.jpg
via Wikimedia Commons
About 80 miles west of St. Louis on I-70 sits "Slave Rock" visible in the median of the interstate, with a name tied to the slave auctions that once occurred at the site.

And it is because of the "shameful scenes of human bondage" that the name represents that Governor Jay Nixon announced today he does not support a plan to rename a part of the interstate there -- arguing that it would erase the slave name and gloss over this dark history of the site.

State lawmakers had widely supported legislation that included renaming a Montgomery County portion of I-70 "Graham's Picnic Rock Highway," -- sending the proposal along to the governor -- who announced today he is vetoing the measure.

"This designation would have elevated one history of the site above all others, thereby defining this landmark and its historical significance for generations to come," Nixon says in a statement. "This attempt to erase the name 'Slave Rock' from this site, without any public debate, cannot become law."

slave-rock-montgomery-county.JPG
via
"Slave Rock" in Montgomery County.

The Graham Picnic name is a reference to Dr. Robert Graham, the former owner of the farm where the rock is located. It was apparently popular in the 1880s to drive with horse and buggy over the old Boone's Lick Road to the Mineola Spring and Graham Cave for a picnic there.

Census records from the mid-19th century, the governor's office says, show that he was once a slave owner in Montgomery County.

gov-jay-nixon-signing-photo.jpg
via
Governor Jay Nixon.

Still, Nixon argues that the new name is problematic. His veto message says:

[I]n sharp contrast to the idyllic images of picnicking travelers conjured by the name "Graham's Picnic Rock" are the shameful scenes of human bondage represented by the rock's other name--"Slave Rock." The rock's name as "Slave Rock" comes from the widely held belief that slave auctions occurred at the site, perhaps related to Graham's slave ownership prior to abolition.

A renaming like this, he says, requires a "robust public debate so that all interested parties' voices can be heard."

The provision, however, was added as a floor amendment and thus never discussed at a public hearing, he points out.

Here's his full veto message.

SB43 Veto

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.



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18 comments
kempkerdylan
kempkerdylan

All racial comments aside, is it not illegal to stop in the median? It would not make any sense to name it "picnic" rock if you aren't technically allowed to stop there anyway.

Richard Peitz
Richard Peitz

If this is Missouri what kind of large plant is that? Never seen one in MO.

Sean Luz
Sean Luz

The legislature is either very smart (evil geniuses) or incredibly dumb. American history is filled with blacks being lynched by white mobs in picnic settings. The Missouri legislature now wants to rename a historical site where slaves were once sold after a former slave holder and add the term 'picnic.' Really? Study history, folks.

Jay Hemp
Jay Hemp

Damn @johnklostermann, I hope you're making a joke. I truly hope you're not really that ignorant...

Stephen Freuler
Stephen Freuler

Good, They Should Change The Name. A lot of people are gonna say "Its History, They Shouldn't Change It" but those people are just Racist.

John Klostermann
John Klostermann

Slavery is an equal opportunity employer. ITS CALLED A JOB!!!!

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

"widely held belief"? No evidence? No fact finding? Just hearsay? Veto the bill, sure fine. Veto as a complete waste of government time and money naming rocks. Now consider the government placing a sign proclaiming "Slave Rock" - think that will fly well? Stop the insanity of government trying to correct speech. Only the locals need to know what the place is referred to as - ask any Saint Louisian about I-64 - huh? what? where? Oh, US-40, sure they know where that is. Other examples? Highways named for sports figures? or Circumferential Highway (I-270), epic fail.

jackiestbird
jackiestbird

I've been by there many times with friends. He always called it 'Slave Rock', I thought he was always joking! I assume, Gov Nixon wants to put a big sign up to move along the division by racism in the country, following Obama's orders. BTW, Nixon GAVE every Concealed carry permit's name to Obama Regime. He is NOT good for Missouri

Jason Charney
Jason Charney

Worse, they want to name the area after a former slave owner. "We can't name that rock 'Slave Rock'! That's politically incorrect. Now calling it 'Graham Picnic Rock' and naming the highway 'Graham Picnic Rock Highway' is acceptable!" Who has picnics on a rock that was used as an auction platform to sell other people? You don't see people trying to book a table for lunch at Medgar Evers house.

Blake Harris
Blake Harris

Are we still going to be talking about it in 300 years?

andre
andre

The first question I asked myself when I read this article about Slave Rock, why does it even need a official state name?  My second question was why would they put the word “picnic” in the name why not just name it Graham Rock Highway instead of Graham “Picnic” Rock Highway?  Most readers may or may not be aware of the connotations that the word “picnic” has been associated with “pick a nigg#@” or “pick a nig” where a black person was randomly "picked" and hanged for the entertainment of whites.  Although most will agree that the origins of that term probably did not come from the word picnic and is probably urban legend, there is the possibility that the terminology may have been used during lynchings as a reflection of the culture of the time.   Regardless, if the word “picnic” was purposefully chosen or not, and regardless the true origins of the word, there are negative associations that exist, and it should not be used for the name of Slave Rock. 


jackiestbird
jackiestbird

@Scott Sheperd  Yep, lets escalate the race division in the U.S.

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