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. Butch

    Good move to correct this ugly reminder of past ignorance.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • douglas

      Past ignorance? You apparently haven't been to East Texas.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Blantant racism still exists.

      Take a hard look at the Birthers, Deathers, and right-wing extremists and they become evident.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • kevin m.

      You're a fool. It's a complete waste of money. Our country needs whatever we can scrap together. While it would be the "right", "proper", "moral" move, it's not a move for the moment at hand. We don;t have the resources for such a project.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Silent Majority

      Kevin, you might want to read the article before you post about it. If you had read at least four short paragraphs, you'd see the money for replacement is coming from a private source.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Not so sure. I don't wish to be disrespectful of the dead. But maybe those stones could be a monument to our history of racism. It happened, and we shouldn't forget. RIP.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • ArchaicRevival

      Wait so... So birthers are racists? Even if they are non-white and born and raised in a different country?

      You're the ignorant one, sir. Just because you question something it doesn't mean you're ignorant.

      Thomas Gray described people like you in one sentence.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. skeptical

    I'm curious, and really doubt, if the people that were in the graves were ever actually moved at all. The grave markers are probably all that were transferred.

    May 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jo

    You can take cement out of the cemetery, but you cant take cement out of your (And others) head.

    May 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lobbyistgrl

      Well said.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Matt

    So much for BURYING THE N WORD.

    May 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. la saun bungumi

    Give em a inch, they want a mile.

    May 7, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • DefenderUS

      Come a little closer I'll give you an inch.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. content_pessimist

    There goes the stupid liberals trying to erase history again. What morons!

    May 7, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • DefenderUS

      Sigh. You make America stupider and less productive. Liberal what? Mind if we mark your mother's grave with Red Neck Mouth Breather Hill?

      May 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Linda

    In 1978 when we lived in Texas and our two daughters were young my mother brought them Black dolls dressed appropriate to the pre-Civil War period from Louisiana. My mother-in-law commented on the dolls using a racial slur. When I asked her not to describe the dolls in that way she told me "well what else would you call them? That's what we always call them." To her it wasn't a racial slur. It was simply the name she used. She was born in a rural area in Texas in 1925 and was uneducated. My mother was born in 1926 in Dallas, Texas and grew up in a more educated environment. I was raised to respect other people because we are all in this together. I was raised in a secular environment. My mother-in-law was raised in a Czech-German Catholic rural setting. I'm not excusing the 1950's group who so freely used a racial slur on the markers but truth is they may have simply been ignorant and didn't at the time see anything offensive about it.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wren

    That's not a fact. That's a bigoted opinion.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chris

    Why does the article say "racial epithet"? Are we children? Are we too delicate to read the word in print? Will reading it in print turn us into racists? Stupid.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bornindausa

    if the n word is racist, why do 8 or 9 out of every 10 black people say it like its their given name?.. and i am white, italian american to be pc, and feel no shame at all for the economy of british colonies 200 yrs ago.. should i feel guilty? i love how white people are the only racist ones around.. because i think the term whiteboy is racist and should not be used except by me and my fellow whiteboys.. aight..

    May 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • billy davis

      You are absolutely incorrect. Do you know 8-9 out of ten black people? I know thousands personally and and many in my family very few of those I know ever use the n-word. Know you facts before post false information.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. phatfreddy1978

    Well noboby likes NAGGERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bornindausa

    naggers.. no naggers bad

    May 7, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Truth Seeker

    Authorities should go back and rename all black people African names because having white Christian names is offensive.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy

    "History" or not, all this could have been avoided if the monuments just had the name, date of birth, and date of death carved instead of what some really moronic people has etched instead. Make no mistake, that word has been a slur long before the remains were moved. Th people who signed off on this knew *exactly* what they were doing; and it was (and still is) abhorrent.

    However, is that word is to be eradicated, black people need to remove it from their vocabulary as well.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Edward

    Racism (White Supremacy) goes through 4 stages:

    (1) Establishment (getting it started)
    (2) Maintenance (keeping it going)
    (3) Expansion (more and more people are born everyday so the SYSTEM of racism [white supremacy] has to expand to take in those people)
    (4) Refinment (so much so that the victims of being mistreated on the basis of color don't even know they are victims)

    The reason many of you don't see much evidence of the existence of racism (white supremacy) is because many more of the people who are practicing racism (white supremacy) today use a much more refined approach versus 100 or even 50 years ago.

    This is just another attempt by the smartest most powerful white people to keep their victims, meaning...the people who they mistreat on the basis of color, thinking that they are in charge by getting white people to police the use of a word that makes non-white people feel powerless when it is used. So if the non-white people can get white people to police the use of this term for them (illusion) then the non-white people will begin to feel powerful.

    Any slave that is made to feel powerful being a slave will never seek to be anything other than a slave.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
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