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. country bean

    @Paul: It's free, stupid!

    May 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    After all, Niger is a country in Africa. Add another 'N' and everyone panics.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • True American

      Really?....add another N? And they call us the "n" word!

      May 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • ROFL

      Hahaha, Chris you dummy! Add another N and everyone panics?...bwahahaha!

      May 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Just goes to show you don't have to be black to be a "N"

      May 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jules

    you are an idiot. I am African American and neither use the "N" word or listen to rap music, now you suck on that.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • chefdugan

      Better not let too many of your friends know that or they will shun you. You sound way too white.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rarebit

      Better to sound too white than too stupid.

      May 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sunshine

      We know you're out there, Jules. Hang in there.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tre'

    There are plenty of things future generations may look at to see the course of our history .
    And even so . . Read a book .
    These people shld be respectfully able to rest in peace without a degrading wrd sittin on the place they reside . Why are we worried about tax dollars when this is clearly botherin a community ?. If nt ,, we wldn't be speakin on this today nw would we ?.
    Politically correct ?. What about ethical ,, morally right . Hmmm humane maybe ?.

    It's is downright offensive for me as an African ( and yes I use the term because my ancestors are from Africa ) American to see the likes of such exists over my peoples dead body . Learn to respect the dead and stop worshipping money !.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jackie

    Out of respect that is owed to the black/ African-American descent threw the troubles and pains we suffered and a lot till goes on today...

    May 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. phil

    while I agree that the n-word has no place in our world today, we just can't go around rewriting history.i am certain that millions of jews still want the death camps in germany torn down, but to forget the horrors of the past for our benefit is to excuse it altogether.history is what it is, like it or not.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fascinated1

      Thanks for your comment! I agree that losing the knowledge that citizens from this particular time and place could unilaterally decide to denigrate a memorial of Americans of African descent would NOT serve our society, so maybe a plaque could also be displayed that captures this time when citizens unilaterally decided to CHANGE the offense made in the past? That would capture where we were and how far we've come as citizens, and still right a wrong done to the powerless of the past.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Reality Check

    This is Orwellian, like the book 1984, editing history. Will our grandchildren, not learn that such disparaging words were used and were commonplace? Censor Tom Sawyer too...oh wait, that's already happened....disgusting!!

    May 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. justin

    Your insensitivity to this subject actually shows your racism. You don't have to say the N-word to be racist. Not wanting a person of color in your neighborhood is racist.

    The following statement you made is racist and stereotyping and entire race..."I am reminded everyday that "people of color" still whine so many words that they are known for (racism, people of color, sue, racial profiling, etc.) Those are just a few".

    Just the fact you don't understand why they NEED their own groups, tv stations, magazines, and schools makes you a racist. They are all white washed and do no include other races (just the way you like it)! When you are excluded from general society you have to make your own. It's because of people like you they still have to use words like, as you so beautifully put it, (racism, people of color, sue, racial profiling, etc.)

    YOU ARE THE REASON WE HAVE LAWS TO PROTECT THESE PEOPLE!

    May 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      You think I would be accepted in the Ghetto (I am a white man) Racism goes both ways. What they are messing with is history. And I do not like that.

      May 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reena

      First of all.....The Ghetto is not full of just colored people, so it doesn't matter that you're white! You feel that this is history because it does not abuse, neglect, or deny your people...the only thing this proves is the ignorance of many, many leaders/people from long ago! Blacks, spanish, jews were (and still are) looked at as being lazy....tell me....who MADE all people of color come and do their work...lazy people, that's who. And i'm sure if slaves continued to remain brainwashed, they would still be doing all the labor while SOMEONE else gets the credit....having less does not, make one less than...this is 2011, change with the times people...it's getting old!

      May 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ricardo

      FYI: slave labor wasn't due to 'laziness', it was due to the need for manpower. You have to be kind of dim or ignorant to think that the people who settled the USA were "lazy".

      May 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ricardo

      Uh, the settlers were not 'lazy', they pioneered a vast, wild frontier. The slave labor was the result of no native workforce in the colonies. And, the "Spanish" are considered lazy? They colonized central and south America. I think you mean people consider Mexicans lazy. Mexicans are not Spanish. Spaniards are Spanish. Idiot.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • nine4209

      your trash and thats it

      May 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pixy

      "Laws to protect these people" ? By segregating them further w/ comments such as those, we are making sure to keep them racially separate. When we can see ppl as "A smart man" instead of "A smart black man" we will begin to be more truly culturally diverse. While it was understood the need to socialize w/ those of the same creed, color, religous affiliation etc, by segregating yourself as a culture, you are helping to define those stereotypes. If ppl of the "white" persuasion were to have "White Entertainment Television, White History Month, White Community Action, White hair magazine" etc, they would be publically crucified and slammed as being "racist." If we are going to celebrate just 2 of the many diverse cultures we already have in the US, why is it only African American and Spanish/Mexican/Latin get months, political groups, national holidays, and the priveledges of getting into schools and jobs because of things like the American Civil Liberty Unions? It's because of things like "Affirmative Action" and celf imposed cultural segregation, that we, as a people, can not let go of past discretions. I have been accused of being "racist" bc my 4 year old son pointed out at a restaurant that "a black man was going to the bathroom" same as he did with the "white haired old man" and "the pretty brown haired mommy" before the black man. However, since that man didn't hear the previous comments, he chose to stop at my booth on his return trip and launch into a racially motivated diatribe w/o cause calling myself as well as my children everything but "white people." When he had finished his tirade, I calmly and politely informed him that for 1. My family did not move to this country until 1929 2. I was Irish, Scottish, and Dutch and my own family had been enslaved by England for hundreds of years and 3. My son was merely pointing out the different people going by our booth to the bathroom. As the man tried to stammer an apology, I just reminded him that as long as he feels slighted, the boundries can not be lifted, and that slavery, as well as the long reaching repercussions of it, don't just belong to the African Americans. As a proud Scottish mick, I sure wouldn't mind seeing my heritage more widely celebrated here in the states, but I know if I want a really good time celebrating all of who I am, I go to Ireland or Scotland.. I go Home. =) I don't hold that against anyone else tho. Get enlightened already and Everyone should stop racially profiling, including African Americans. Just sayin'..

      May 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonee

      There are plenty of groups in America that celebrate Scottish and Irish heritage as well as Italian, Scandanavian or whatever nationality one's ancestry is. Not to mention the fact that mainstream media is already predominantly white. We're still feeling the repercussions of slavery and the pre-civil rights. It takes generations to wipe out the effects of that kind of prejudice not just on a social level, but political, economic, etc. We're well on the way, but minorities are still disadvantaged.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • B W Styles

      @ pixie: what a looonngg load of bull.

      May 8, 2011 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • JLPl

      Because I don`t understand why they need their own TV stations,groups, schools etc. makes me a racist? If people want to be separate it defeats the whole purpose of integration. This is why I don`t think it is healthy for any race to separate themselves in any way .

      May 7, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smoov

      Do you see an equal number of Blacks on TV shows during primetime? How many Black women do you see starring in the latest blockbuster movies? Some still have the 'Whites-Only' mentality...they just don't put signs up like they did back in the day.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • evensteven

      "These People"? I thought that was a no-no also . . .

      May 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RebelSix

    wait just a minute. Community governments across the land are going broke. There is not enough money to cover essential duties. Now a prison board wants to replace these gravestones at tax payers cost? Granted the work will be done by slave labor – the prisoners, but the cost of material is NOT free. This is NOT the time for a government agency to waste money. Yes it's a waste. It would be better to just pull the head stones up, or chisel out the word, rather than replace with new stones.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      You just don't get it. These graves were correctly mark BEFORE they were moved the first time. These people decided unilaterally that instead of just placing the same thing down they would add their racist feeling to people that were already were laid to rest. Each and every day I am reminded that there are people like you who will say they are not racist but make stupid comments showing they are in fact racist. And the worst part about this is that I bet you can find people still alive (from the area) who supoorted this instance and told their children (probably you) that Blacks didn't deserve a proper burial.

      May 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • mommy

      daniel- it's not racist to have an opinion that differs from yours. in fact, you're a bigot!

      May 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • joyone farmer

      rebel six the government has more than enough money needed to fix this!!!!! if you want to complain then complain that they aren't letting enough people out of prison so that we have more taxpayers instead of lengthy sentences for petty crimes!!!!

      May 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. There are no gods!

    what a waste. How do you replace "honor and dignity" to those that have died? They are dead, I am more than certain that these people do not care what is written on their headstone. . .In fact, I am willing to wager that these former people dont even care whether they have a head stone or a grave at this point! Cemeteries are a huge waste of space and money, we all die why take up space after you are gone? Just more examples of religious waste.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chyea

    I was really annoyed that part of the picture was censored. It kinda makes the entire photograph pointless, doesn't it?

    *facepalm*

    May 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • j

      and what was the offensive word?

      May 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nancy M. B.

    Just another way we kiss the butts of the "politically correct." Leave the damn headstones alone.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Definitely agree with you! What is on the gravestones is part of history, it shouldn't be changed choose to be PC by today's standards!

      May 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. foshizzle

    And all this time, I thought these stones would make a good NWA album cover.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ONE TRUE LOVE

    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is the predestined equivalence of UNITED STATE OF MIND. All those (no exceptions)whom fail to understand-for whatever reason-will undoubtedly cease to stand,through and by every and any reasonable means. Have genuine fun, for it is the only way to accomplish our individual and unique, present life level journey of FAITHFUL WORKS. Hearfor,worry not alot nor a little for all and everything are evident.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. iraq vet

    everything about this cnn comments section is disheartening...

    May 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
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