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. alloro

    So let me get this straight, it's okay to use the word 'negr0' in the article, but the word 'negr0' has to be blurred out in the picture at the top of the article?

    May 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jones

      No a different other "n" word apparently was used on the tombstones. This IS 2011 right? That's disgusting!

      May 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      That's not the word they blurred out. That's the point of the article and the restoration effort.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruth

      I don't think they are talking about the word Negr0.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Don't see an issue with this, after all blacks refer to each other with derogatory 'racist' terms all the time. Must have been some money in it for Jesse Jackson or the local NAACP. MLK must be turning in his grave at the victim mentality blacks in this country cant seem to live without.

      May 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • pointless1

      Allro – seriously stupid.. comprehension skills need more work...

      May 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. george wm bush

    What happened?

    May 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Duane

    Wow......yep, that's bad but we do need to preserve it. Once we do all us whites can feel guilty all over again and elect another black as pres because of our white guilt.....that or just let Oprah pick the next one seeing how well the libs think she did picking the junior senator who ran bake sales as experance in order to prepare for running the USA!!! :0)

    May 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruth

      Preserve what? These markers were created in 1950 when the Army Corp of Engineers moved a cemetary. They transferred all of the markers that were in the cemetary but the graves on one particular hill HAD NO MARKERS. So they made them. In 1950. Not rewriting history.

      May 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joshua Ludd

      Harvard Law, chairman of the Harvard Law Review, community organizing, and a term in Congress are not quite a bake sale.

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

      Wow Duane- pretty stupid even for you.

      May 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      Wow, Harvard Law! So that's why he has sounded himself with elitist professors who (in theory) know everything.......but have never DONE anything. Never run a business, a state, a city.........funny, I always heard that if you can do it, if you can' teach it. I'm sure he thinks he can....but please.
      I agree with Ruth, 50 years old is not history so we can change and whitewash everything that you feel we should so we can make this place forget all those bad bad people........idiots.

      May 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve Brinkhoff

      You're a real deep thinker there, Duane buddy. Now go get my Happy Meal.

      May 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sebastian

    Actually, they put the F*** word before the N***** word when referring to President Obama. But it's OK because they hate a lot of white people too!

    May 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. 21k

    gee, and after the south started all that trouble with the civil war in order for them to have the right to own other people as slave labor.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy

    This cemetery was moved, correct? And the original markers were replaced with the offensive markers. Does any of you *really* think that the original markers had this horrendous word on them? Rewriting history! Really, now? It seems to me that the racist engineers were the ones that re-wrote history when they decided it was perfectly OK for them to carve whatever the hell they wanted on the gravestones. And I'm willing to bet that the families of the affected had no recourse, because it *was* the fifties, and the powers-that-were just said, "mind your place"!

    As for fixing it on the taxpayers dime? It was taxpayer money that paid for the offensive stones...the taxpayers can sure as hell pay for restoring dignity to these departed souls!

    And there are cemeteries for every ethnicity. Find one and be buried in it, if you want. The only equality we are talking about here is one's rights to be buried under a marker that someone else, in their stupidity, doesn't replace with their own brand of hate. I don't think that is too much to ask of matter how long ago these people lived.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruth

      Finally, someone who actually read the article entirely. except the graves had no markers, so they created them. In 1950. And the racially offensive slur made it past a whole bunch of pencil pushers who signed off on the order to have them made.

      May 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JIM

    I am so tired of baby talk by the media I doubt anything they print. I wish they would take the 'N" word, put it in their right "H" word and stick it up their "A" word.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. v

    White-wash history. Burn the books. Reprint revisionism according to who this time?

    May 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. janet

    So where do I fit in here?!? My grandmothers were russian and black my grandfathers were french and austrian! I am a second generation american now my children are what ever I am ^ what you can make of the above and Mexican their father is a mexican national! On his side they are 1st gen americans! I love my family we are mutts made of several races .... I get offended when I hear hatred of any kind. These stones memorials and should be kept that way in a museum the people laid to rest there should get new stones. Yet for some reason hearing the N word on a daily basis in songs and on movies I can't help but wonder if P Diddy isn't right about his views on this word being made common and loosing its power?!?

    May 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jason

    It's disgusting that someone defiled these gravemarkers with the word "Nerd." Jerks.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. banasy

    @Ruth. You're correct. I didn't read that part. Thanks.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JRH

    The whole subject of the "X-word" just makes me laugh. Words have no power other than what we give them. You can call me anything you like, and if you do, it's entirely *your* problem, not mine. Your words have no power over me. We act as if using the word "n1gg*r" is going to cause the world to collapse in on itself. It won't. It's just a word. I only hacked it up because the filters here won't let me actually type the word (how silly). If people would spend more time and energy trying to eradicate the ignorance that fosters the use of epithets rather than the epithets themselves, the world would be a much better place.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Brad


    May 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SophieCat

    I've never understood why it's OK for them to call each other (racial epithet), but it's not OK for anyone else to do it. You should hear 'em! They throw that word around like it's nothing. But let a white person say it – they go bananas!

    Oh wait. Maybe I shouldn't use the word "bananas". That might not be PC. Well. Of course – unless THEY use it. Then it's OK, right?

    May 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jim

    we're all the same;people

    May 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
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