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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soundoff (481 Responses)
  1. jojo

    This POC garbage has gone too far. Black criminals assault whites just because of race, and eric the sh it eating holder does NOTHING, that RACIST PIECE OF SH IT

    May 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • saints4llife

      damn you sound dumb

      May 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Truth_hurts

    here we go again...the white establishment rewriting history, erasing their past attrocities in hopes that everyone forget everything our ancestors endured. good thing that the god of Jacob will always remember the generations who suffer till this day, and the ones who benefit from wickidness when he excercises his judgement in that great day.

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

    No problems. Raisist raisist! What the hell is the difference between mr. Rogers neihborhood and fred samfords junk yard?

    May 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Reg

    Why would you want to indicate the race at all. When everyone is reduced to dust in the end, how does it matter what the race of your body was? Just put the name, that's enough. Souls don't have race.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Monzell

    People out grow up and treat people like they would like instead of looking to choose the other siege without out thought. the gov mean we the people its us the people who make the laws for us...I think at times instead of hiding in here saying silly stuff to sound big

    May 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Liberty Queen

    The gravestones were correctly marked BEFORE they were moved and replaced with headstones bearing a racist appellation by the bigoted white-boy Army Corp of Engineers. Petty, small-minded, bigoted, racists who think the real history is leaving the obviously replaced headstones bearing the word N-word are losers who should just get off the planet now.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Trent

    As we lay off hundreds of thousands of teachers, it's so refreshing to see the Political Correctness Fund is apparently bottomless.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ronnie, from New Orleans,LA

    This is the shamefull history of America!! Maybe Rev Wright was right! But what a shock it would be if some of the same A- holes were still alive to see Black Americas, the grandchildern of former slaves who were hug just for having an education, educated, working and have a Black President leading America! Spitting on the white sheets!!!

    May 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CalgarySandy

    Proud of your race? Whatever did you do to become white? How did you select it such that there is any cause to be proud of it? I can sort of understand being proud of your culture as that actually has some meaning in the real world. If your culture is that of North America, then you are just another member of a mix that includes Italian, German, African, Jamaican, Russian, Chinese, Thai, English, Irish, Jewish, Muslim/Yemen, Muslim/Indonesia and so on. North American culture is a hodge podge in a way other countries are not.

    Or you could claim to be Anglo Saxon and not participate in the enjoyment of pizza, dim sum, jerk chicken, Pad Thai, Butter Chicken or Rock, Blues, and Jazz; which are sourced from African music. However, an English person can be any color as the British Commonwealth is international.

    I am personally offended in being refereed to as "white." It is a racist term meant to single out someone from the whole of culture and lay on them either being a racist or being hated for being a racist. I am not a racist and am not happy to be called one. It is very likely that my ancestors in England were crawling through mines in their childhood just like slaves or shipped into the Middle East as a slave.

    Before I lived in the US I never ever thought of myself by race at all. Canadians do not self identify by their race though some may use a hyphenation like English-Canadian. It is very easy, unfortunately, to make anyone angry and belligerent if you keep referring to them as a racist. To call an entire race that includes hundreds of different cultures racists is, well, very racist and it is not excusable because the speaker has been discriminated against. I won't become a racists but I sure can think a person is a total idiot with no education and little common sense who calls me one.

    I do have some prejudice towards some cultures due to their values and on-going behaviors. Most of these are white cultures or sub cultures though I am not too fond of some of the behaviors towards women in the warring parts of Africa. That has nothing to do with the entire race of blacks just those that behave badly, those individuals who behave badly. I don't care for radical religionists or politicos of any group regardless of culture or color. Racism is one of several nasty things that are used to twist history, keep people down, isolate, and excuse bad behavior. African Americans are far from the only people who have had to live with prejudice against them. So do women and Muslims and the mentally or developmentally ill.

    I watched the Freedom Riders on TV with my mouth agape. I remember asking my Mom why people were treating Black people so badly. I am so pleased to see an African American (and a few other things) become president of the United States. He did not come out of the Ivy League world be he did enter it. Look around. Lots of people have gotten out of the ghetto. I had a dear friend in NYC who had been born to share croppers in South Carolina. They had 12 children. Dad was a farmer and mom took in laundry and sewing. It sounds like something out of Gone with the Wind. My friend worked really hard and got a good education in IT. He had a nice home and he helped his parents. The last time I saw him he had bought a nice home in Delaware so his kids would have good schools and a really nice neighborhood. He did not hate white people though he was certainly aware of racism; in both races. It is not easy to get out of the slums. I know. I am a woman who worked in IT, a man's world. I grew up in the slums and had no encouragement from my family. It isn't easy for anyone and you may not make it or make it all the way but you will make is part way and you can be proud of that. Calling racism on everyone is an easy way to plss your life away.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hurricane

      Where the forms ask for race, I answer "Western European American".

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


      May 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • White Sambo

      yet you call yourself English Canadian. This in itself implies that you are racist against French Canadians.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • bg

      "Canadians do not self identify by their race though some may use a hyphenation like English-Canadian. "

      I must be reading that wrong. Canadians may not call themselved "English-Canadians" but there is sure as heck a significant portion of the population that calls itself "French Canadian" (approximately 8 million of them in Canada)

      May 7, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Septocaine

      Our neighbors to the North have it all figured out. Seems we've been kidding ourselves since defeating them in the French Indian Wars. Also, their notable lack of involvement in the Middle East wars shows their true colors. I only saw Canadians sitting in American Navy bases waiting for treatment they couldn't get in Canada, always demanding and confrontational, reminding us of what we owe them. Who gives a shat what you people think? Save us the time and blog on your social medicine network, whatever. Hope this helps Frenchie

      May 7, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • stejo

      septo seems to be a xenophobic a$$wipe

      May 8, 2011 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. nine4209

    Anyone who thinks these shouldnt be replaced should look in the mirror. Remember the world is changing and your son or daughter could bring home a person of color and what would you do. Black people are no longer the minority and we are just as if not more sucessful as any people on the planet so get over the white racist ways of you families and move on. Get over it or move the easiest way to say it. You LOSE we WIN

    May 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • JLPl

      So, in order for you to win I have to lose? Sounds like racism to me. Rewrite history if you will, but it does not change it.

      May 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • One thing we can agree on...

      I hope one thing we can ALL agree on is that White_Knight should be totally ignored for the ..... that he is. Don't feel the trolls!

      May 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      If my daughter brought home a black man I'd call the cops! But that's only because she's four years old...

      Sorry, I know this is a serious issue. But it's hard for me to imagine her dating.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • whight_knight

      It's really funny to see how stupid some of you idiots are..just because you are foolish enough to let words hurt your feelings doesn't mean everyone else is and I honestly don't care what any of you think about me because I don't crave acceptance from the masses.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pete from St Paul

    DEAD PRESIDENTS. We worship and honor dead presidents by every money note and coin we work for. How many Americans will be offended should someone deface that mountain which shows the busts of DEAD PRESIDENTS; that Tea People will spend millions to make a new one for their hero Ronnie Reagan.
    All people great and small, the good Lord made us all.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Why would the Tea Party want to glorify Reagan? According to them, he was a RINO, and way too liberal.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rejj Smooth

    An insult is like driving a nail into a board, You can remove the nail but the scar of the hole remains. We should leave the gravestones as they are and add a stone tablet that explains what happened. Money will be saved, responsibility will be noted and this incident will not be hidden from future generations. A lesson will be taught about why "human evolution" is so important and a measure will be recorded of how far we have come.

    May 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sternberg

    Removing that word from markers and such is only removing symptoms of the problem. We need to remove the stygma from that label and eliminate its ability to cause hurt.

    May 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • JG_Tucson

      Excellent point...

      While there is still plenty of racism out there, we as a people (I mean Americans, not any particular race), have obviously come a long way. Removing a hurtful word does not remove the pain and humiliation inflicted upon a race of human beings, but it can show our willingness to at least try to make it right.

      I am, however, on the fence regarding the removal of / changing the headstones. History is history, and it will never change, no matter how painful and embarrassing it was and still is. Part of me thinks the headstones should stay to remind us of how far we have come regarding how horribly we used to treat all people of a particular race for no other reason but the color of their skin.

      I really think that we need this as a reminder of how we used to act as a whole, hopefully so we we'll never do it again to ANY race of people, I also find the word disgusting and unacceptable and think it should be removed just because of how hurtful it is. I'm actually torn on this one.. Preserving history versus what is now very offensive to most..

      I am not ignorant enough to believe that racism is gone. I"m just glad that it isn't as wide-spread and viscous as it once was. I still can't believe that something so horrible was not only encouraged, but legal.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jenn

    I hope they put racist idiot on your tombstone.

    May 7, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. erica

    I just want to say that for all of u ppl who are for this and think its respectful, etc....first of all, thats the life they knew. we cant change it now no matter how much our bleeding hearts want too. secondly, its not respectful to move a place of burial for CONSTRUCTION! not to mention how are they planning on doing this when these ppl have been in the ground so long theyre dust??? im so sick of this. when are we (AMERICA) going to learn to fix the here and now rather than crying over the past or things that really dont need the time... 🙁

    May 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
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