Plan would replace controversial grave markers
On gravestones taken from the Negro Hill Cemetery, the word “Negro” has been replaced with a racial epithet.
May 6th, 2011
03:30 PM ET

Plan would replace controversial grave markers

[Updated 6:52 a.m. ET]

After more than a half-century, gravestones etched with racial epithets in a California cemetery may be replaced, thanks to a plan by the California Prison Industry Authority.

The graves, in Mormon Island Cemetery in El Dorado Hills, were transferred from a cemetery in a town called Negro Hill to make way for the construction of Folsom Dam.

On the gravestones, the word “Negro” has been replaced with a racial epithet.

On Thursday, the California Prison Industry Authority offered to replace the gravestones free of charge.

“That graveyard is right around the corner from our offices, and it’s pretty easy to know that that’s the right thing to do,” Charles Pattillo, general manager of the authority, said Friday.

"If we can help the Army Corps of Engineers and the county and restore some honor and dignity to the people that are buried there, then that’s what we’ll do,” Pattillo said.

The El Dorado County Administrator's Office supports the plan, but the process, like many things in government, may be slowed by bureaucratic red tape.

"The prison authority's offer was a great offer and unexpected," said Mike Applegarth, a spokesman for El Dorado County. "We all want to see this project make it through, but it may take some time, a few weeks or so," he said.

Although the offensive term has riled members of the community for years, and many have tried to get the markers replaced, according to CNN affiliate KXTV, no one knew when the word had appeared on the markers - until now.

This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released 1950s-era records on the construction of Folsom Dam. Also included were documents related to the relocation of  several cemeteries, including Negro Hill. The epithet is repeatedly used in the documents.

In the 1950s, the Army Corps of Engineers completed the relocation of the gravesites, "transferring all original markers where we found them," Lt. Col. Andrew B. Kiger wrote in a letter on the Corps of Engineers website. "Finding none at Negro Hill, we marked the graves with new ones, noting the name of the original cemetery by another, deeply offensive slur," he said.

"We don’t know why, when in so many other instances the cemetery was called Negro Hill, the new gravestones and our records use the more offensive word. Our records contain no documentation of its original designation. Yet this word appears throughout these records; in contracts, in project maps, in legal affidavits, signed by local, state, and, of course, federal officials," Kiger wrote.

“We can only say with certainty that it is reflective of a shameful period in American history when racial intolerance was commonplace,” he said.

Last month, county officials met to discuss the issue but took no action, according to CNN affiliate KCRA.

"To see this is unacceptable," Ralph White of the Stockton Black Leadership Council was quoted by KCRA as saying at the time. "That word won't be there another year. Either God's going to remove it, or Satan will know what to do about it," White said.

The California Prison Industry Authority plan awaits approval from the El Dorado County Board.

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Filed under: California • U.S.
soundoff (481 Responses)
  1. Tan

    This is in California? I had to go back up and read it twice! I would have expected something like this to be in Alabama or one of those other southern states.
    Well, that's the bad old days for you. They need to be looked back upon with natural disgust for the brain-pinched bigotry that was prevalent then.
    Now some of it still happens, but we can at least do what we can to fix these things when we find them.

    May 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom Vogler

      california was settled by many southern dirt people... this type of behavior is not unusual among them

      May 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roland

      There is a tremendous amount of racism in California. The movie Crash is highly accurate.

      May 6, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • 12-21-12

      Hey...these stupid white folks were my relatives! Since I feel some of the same things, I guess I have the stupid gene in my white @$$.

      May 6, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bama

      Considering what Alabama is going through right now, you and Tom Vogler can go straight to hell! Do you really think that your ignorant, hateful, inflammatory remarks are any less poisionous than racism? Racism is everywhere and always has been. This cemetary is just one small example.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
    • keithnj


      I bet you have the IQ test results to prove it!

      May 7, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Babbs

      From sea to shining sea!!! Please read more 18th and 19th century U.S. history books.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Barbara

      People like you who stereotype other people, especially southerners, only show your ignorance. If I were you I'd keep your stupid mouth closed.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • jerry

      White people in California??? Have you looked around you ? Going, going, almost gone!

      May 7, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Leroy

    Absolutely – should be changed to "African-American" Hill.

    May 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Why? Why not simply call it American hill? Why does it have to be called AFRICAN American hill? Are there European American hills? Middle Eastern American Hills? Baltic American Hills? Their Americans period to denote anything different IMO is divisive and contrary to their efforts as Americans.

      May 6, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • hawaiiduude

      then I want my own Polish American hill too!

      May 6, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • brian

      Leroy when u say African American do u realise unless u were born in Africa or ur parents or grandparents r African ur not African that's y I don't get that black people refer to them selves as African American u r simply black American

      May 6, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • 12-21-12

      Black American? Friggin Americans come from Europe, Africa, Asia, etc. WE ARE ALL JUST AMERICANS!

      May 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • brian

      12 21 12 ur right man I just think its funny how black people refer to themselves as African American when they arnt African american

      May 7, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      How 'bout just restore it back to what it was orignally?...which is what they plan to do...

      May 7, 2011 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Babbs

      Racial designation has always been a part of the United States culture! South Africa is the only other country with the same designations. I want to be designated as African-American as homage/remembrance to my African ancestors whose blood, sweat and tears are embedded in this land!!!!!!

      May 7, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. Gary In Massena

    Amazing CNN!

    Yesterday you displayed multiple pictures of dead terrorists in all of their bloody gore and today you grey out a mere offensive word on a tombstone? Not much in the way of consistency here.

    May 6, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • pazke

      I agree. It is a very offensive word, but judging by some of the comments there are some readers that don't even understand what word they are talking about. I think it would have been okay to use it once, in quotes and then refer to it as the epithet from there on after.

      May 6, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joey

    There was no reason to censor my absolutely correct and respectful comment on this!
    This did not happen in a Southern state: it happened in California.
    Do not obliquely smear Alabama or another Southern state for it.

    May 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      The censor is a computer - it finds a word in your post and deletes your post. The same happened to me. That is why some people use things like n--r instead.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joey

    Thank you.

    May 6, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tom

    These people are dead, their immediate relatives are also dead. When our country is bankrupt and we are quickly sliding into the abyss as a country...WHY....would we waste money on a graveyard NOBODY visits......It's unfortunate but not something the taxpayers should pay for.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      Some people - like Tom here - know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Oh, St. Taxpayer, protect us!

      May 6, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • pazke

      No, they should be replaced – returned to their original text.

      May 6, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      There are lots of more important things then money: like respect for the non-living and especially fixing up our American Karma. We have to undo the foolish mistakes of the previous generations of this country, so it wouldn't happen again. Worshipping the dollar bill as gods is another mistake; it should all be burned. God bless America!

      May 6, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • catmom

      I believed the article said the California Prison Industry Authority would do it for free. Did you not read the article before you decided to whine about it?

      May 7, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. john kenyon

    Here we go again wiith the politically correct thing to do.. even if it means re-writing history!
    Lets all change the headstones and pretend it never happened. We dont want to offend anyone!!

    May 6, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Did you bother to read the story? The history was rewritten back in the 50s when they moved the headstones...

      May 7, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ken

    They said "the offensive term has riled members of the community for years",,, Must not have offended them too much, they didn't do anything about it. Until now, when they can get someone else to pay for it.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amazed

      The government (ie, Army Corps of Engineers) committed this horrible act. So, yes, it IS the government's responsibility to fix it.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Ken: did you read the article? It said that various groups have tried to fix it in the past, with no success.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ModernEarthling

    I didn't know the Tea Party was in existence way back then!

    May 6, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ennis P. Buford

    I hope they dont replace the "Aunt Jemimahs got a maple sweet heart" gravestone thats my favorite.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  11. 12-21-12

    This is a waste of time. Everyone has an opinion, but really who cares?

    May 7, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kim

    Yay! Let's alter history to reflect our modern beliefs and political correctness! I guess we should go back and re-name the Yellow Star that the Nazis forced Jews to wear on their clothes...we'll re-name those "Giant Juden Sprinkles".

    May 7, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Another non-reader commenting from the stance of ignorance! Great job...

      May 7, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Herper the Derper

    I'm so confused! I know so many racist epithets, I don't know which one they're talking about! Bad journalism and censorship abound!

    May 7, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  14. Brigadeer general

    Dey dun gone an whoopped ereyone up in a brouhaha now y'all

    May 7, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Idiot much?

      May 7, 2011 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. paul

    I didnt see a problem with them. big waste of money.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • PhillFoss

      Most Moron's wouldn't.....

      May 7, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Trey

      Phil, so someone who has different opinions than you is a moron? By the way, it's "morons" not "moron's", moron.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Phil–Trey is right. Its "morons". Look in a dictionary. If they have a picture, see if Trey is pictured. And, Trey, nobody should have a "different opinion" supporting the use of this word on a person's headstone, especially since it was placed their by some racist, inbred, unpatriotic ignoramus (no offense)..

      May 7, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
    • doggone

      lol kelly... calls someone out on poor spelling and proceeds to misspell a word as simple as "there". stupid girl.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • ruserious

      they mention RALPH WHITE at the end piece of this article ... he is nothing but a failed city council member and a slum lord mis using welfare money in the county of san joaquin ... maybe CNN should do an expose on HIM ... i would be happy to provide cnn with plenty of info seeing as how i am a former tennant of his i have a big inside scoop ... or maybe he could have paid for the tombstones himself with some of the illegal county money he swindles instead of letting the tax payers get double stufffed ... ralph white is a joke and this whole tombstone business is a joke ... wake up america and look at what tax dollars are being spent on and who the money is going to!!!

      May 7, 2011 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      doggone–Got me on "there". You win...

      May 7, 2011 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      doggone...Wait...I didn't call anybody out on spelling. Please read my comment and those before it. There you go...

      May 7, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
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