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. banasy

    Truth seeker: offensive to whom?

    May 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Christopher

    Thats what they were called back then whether modern day people like it or not. You dont modify history just because you dont find it acceptable for today's standards. Stop trying to change history just because it doesnt fit neo-liberalism.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • billy davis

      Since Obama ordered and succeeded in killing bin Laden the Republicans has been coming out saying that it was Bush's doing that bin Laden was caught. I guess they are now neo liberals.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bob

    Getting rid of "bad words" will not change anything .

    May 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      While I think they should be removed out of respect for the dead, it would be a shame to destroy them forever. We should not whitewash our history, but rather, let future generations see our poor mistakes. That way, they can learn that we uncovered the error in our ways and avoid repeating them. They can see how we subjugated an entire race of people solely out of greed and fear and hate. And perhaps, in the process, they will learn to be tolerant and even kind to those they would hurt.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • That's pretty hilarious that some black guy would do this....

      Funny stuff. You people are sooooooooooo up tight. Loosen up a bit. Quit taking yourself so seriously. "Mom, he called me fatso." "What darling....? Don't worry we'll sue him for calling you names". What a puss-society we have turned into. Grow up ya'll.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Agreed. We need to stop trying to hide the mistakes we made and try to learn from them instead, or we'll just end up repeating them.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Septocaine

      We've been in the business of political correctness for so long, the business of whitewashing history, that the actual facts will simply disappear for the purpose of appeasement, nothing more. Pretending it didn't happen is like pretending the Civil War didn't happen. Always the elitist Left trying to rewrite history to help people feel better about themselves, rather than face up to the dark parts of our history. Pretty soon, history classes will the based on the flavor of the day, rather than actual historical facts. We don't see whites trying to rewrite history on the wrongs they suffered at the hands of the ruling class. As evidence by the events surrounding the early immigration wave into the US during the 1880's and later. You don't see Irish wiping the eyes on their sleeves, or Italians, et al.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Faye

      Bob – No, It probably will not change the mentality of the person who put forth the time and effort to deface the stone - No one is trying to "fix" the psyche of that sick individual. But don't you think that the wrong (marring the stone) should be corrected out of respect for the decreased?

      May 7, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay In Florida

      Pretending it didn't happen, and erasing it... is the sure way to make sure it happens again in the future. Political correctness is a cancer in our society.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. moronic_cesar

    I'm sure if it was an option, they would've preferred cremation. no place for racists to show their true 'colors'...

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

      Sniffle. Boo hoo. We were mistreated. Since when do you have exclusive jurisdiction on misjustice or discrimination at the hands of others. Have you forgotten recent history, e.g. South Central LA.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • stejo

      Septocaine – everything that has happened since slavery has the history of slavery. African Americans will most likely never be completely over it...would you? I don't think the country will ever truly be over 9/11, and that was 1 day, not 400 years.

      May 8, 2011 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  5. banasy

    Catmom, never forget that alongside of white slave traders, black African tribal leaders were selling the rivals they conquered in tribal wars. It's not only caucasians that bought and sold black flesh; blacks did, too. They exploited their own race.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • MP

      Please be quiet before you embarrass yourself further. African Tribal slavery did not resemble the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in any way. African tribal "slaves" were paid a wage, they were not shackled, beaten, torn from their families, and they were not property. Tribal "slavery" is a misnomer, following war the losing tribesmen were to pay off the debt of losing the battle by working for a certain period of time, perhaps a few months but certainly not life.

      The Trans-Atlantic slave trade was unique, the world had never seen human beings traded and owned like cattle. Even my jewish ancestors enslaved in egypt were paid a wage and in fact were unionized and went on strike from time to time. You have no clue what you're talking about.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big J

      @MP Much of what you have stated is simply not true. See this site at the University of Colorado: http://autocww.colorado.edu/~blackmon/E64ContentFiles/AfricanHistory/SlaveryInAfrica.html

      May 7, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • RoseMcB

      @MP Well, I wasted time writing a longer response, but I agree with the second poster. You, Sir, are the one in error, quite a bit off in left field. She is more correct than you. I have no idea where you get your strange version, but I can guarantee it wasn't in an accredited university.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Faye

      Blacks did not wield the same atrocities on their slaves as white slaveowners. Why the comparison? If you know enough that blacks also owned slaves, you should be aware of the treatment of African slaves owned by whites.....

      May 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brian in Los Angeles

    I am not black, but I find it offensive that you cannot show a gravestone that is existing and you have the gall to "Photoshop" out a word that is on it.
    Are we so politically correct now that we cannot show what is real?

    I find it shocking.

    Horrific that it occured, but you are renewing the horror by not showing it to all, the bare naked truth.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • RoseMcB

      I completely agree. It's the same thing as with this recent "clean-up" of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer". It is no longer possible to see some old classics like Jack Benny's show, or Amos and Andy because of "political correctness". Pretty soon, I'm guessing they well either "cleanup" or ban altogether old works and films like "Gone with the Wind".

      I think old people know what the past was like in this country and I think young people are smart enough to learn what it was like in this country and elsewhere before they were born. We all know what terminology is not acceptable in common conversation. There is no need to attempt to rewrite history to spare feelings. It is what it is. If young people do not learn these things, how will they know for future. It is how we learn from our mistakes.

      We are not children, yet there are so many out there who will try to treat us as though we are incapable of judging such matters for ourselves. I am perfectly capable of deciding what I shall read or see. I shall decide for myself if the photos of a dead Bin Laden or a "n*****r-ridden version of Tom Sawyer is too much for my sensibilities. I dislike censors.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sunshine

      Names on gravestones should be sacred and allowed to stand. They identify an era, and a person. Names and descriptions change. When I grew up, my grandfather called black laborers "darkies." He was born in 1892. "Darkies" stood until "the N word" came along, which was later replaced with Blacks and then African Americans. My opinion? They don't care what they're called as long as they're intelligent and hard-working citizens; otherwise, if they get their free housing, medical, clothing, and publicity, watch when you drive through the 'hoods". I'm done.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. unowhoitsme

    EVERYONE DESERVES RESPECT...DEAD OR ALIVE...REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Fallowt

    "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.

    Yes, because you speak for both God and the devil too, right Mr. White? You self-righteous mother-phucker.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stewy

    All of the comments on here just stupid. for those defending there race and for those who are just racist. Did you know that all people of all race and color's and religion were enslaved at on time or anther the problem is that some were treated more brutally than others. I think that these tombstones needs to be replace and changed because it's the right thing to do now that we are living in the 20th century. Not in the 50'S were racism was at it's worst.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sunshine

      Don't change a thing. It is history. It is OUR history, proud of it or not.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Randall

    The photo has been censored!

    May 7, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. smalldogtrucking@myspace.com

    theres now a new phrase, instead of "______-rigged" its now a "presidential-adjustment"

    May 7, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chris Dowd

    Wow- that's a pretty deep hate to make someone do that to so many grave markers- freaky weird nutso type hate.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Linari

    The stones were carved that way by the us gov't. Look it up on google; they have the actual stones uncensored there. It was a willful and spiteful act by our gov't; these souls were not only disinterred to build a dam, they were further disrespected by having the name of the cemetery they were moved from changed into one that is a deliberate slur on them.

    This is not graffiti; this was a malicious act by malicious people in our government at the time. They were all carved thus:

    UNKNOWN
    MOVED FROM N____R HILL CEMETERY BY THE US GOVERNMENT
    1954

    Just as you would have carved the manes and dates of your loved ones, so the government carved this into their markers. Of COURSE it must be rectified!!!

    May 7, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Linari

    if people want to preserve this, the markers should go into a Civil Rights Museum.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rhonda

    Why is it that only blacks can say "that word"? It can't even be used in this article but yet it spews from hip hop and rap radio stations!

    May 8, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
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