OLATHE, Kan. (KSNT) — There is still a push to change the name of a creek in Johnson County, Kansas.
Local organizations are advocating to change the name of Negro Creek, but they’re also learning the history behind the creek’s name.
The story came to light in September and historians at the Johnson County Museum were trying to figure out why the creek was named Negro Creek.
The county hired Dianne Mutti-Burke, a professor at the University of Missouri- Kansas City to do research on the creek.
She learned it has ties to slavery and that’s why local organizations are really pushing for the change.
“I kind of felt that it was something that happened on that creek that would cause that creek to be named Negro Creek,” Patrick Wotruba, Founder of The Miller Dream LLC.
Wotruba said he was surprised to hear that it was a creek named Negro Creek in Johnson County, but learning the history behind it was even more horrifying.
“Negro Creek wouldn’t be a name for freedom if that’s where they were going for freedom,” Wotruba said. “So, it was something degrading.”
The Negro Creek flows into the Blue River and runs south through the cities of Leawood and Overland Park.
Research shows an enslaved man was escaping to freedom when he was followed and found.
He decided to take his own life instead of being killed or captured.
“I feel like that it is very disrespectful, very demoralizing and very unfair to those who have been impacted by the fight of their ancestors,” Vaquandra Wotruba, Vice President of The Miller Dream LLC said.
Johnson County Commissioner, Becky Fast, said a community input meeting and support from surrounding cities must be done before the United States Board of geographical Names gives them the permission to rename the creek.
“I feel like the larger conversation is as important as the name change,” Fast said. “That we as a community understand where Johnson County has been.”
The Wotrubas have been a part of the push to change the name of the creek.
A petition they started has over 600 signatures now.
The date for the community input hasn’t been set yet.
The county said it would like to have it in person but that isn’t an option right now because of the pandemic.