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. Haha


    May 7, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. francis

    This is insane. Changing the headstones isn't going to erase the history of the time. With all these spouting liberals shoving politically correctiveness down our throats why dont they take on a more current issue like feeding the African American homeless. Employing the out of work African Americans, or even using the money they would spend to replace decade old headstones by building habitat homes for the poor African Americans. Create a scholarship to educate an African American. Plain Old Americans need to shout "That's Enough!" Of this political correctness idiocy!

    May 7, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Tif

      Francis using terms like "liberals" or any other term to be divisive is not only a waste of time but just non accurate....because I'm a liberal and I agree with you. See that's the funny thing about people....we have thoughts and opinions and shouldn't be boxed in. SO back to the topic..... I feel to keep the ugly truth in place is important for future generations to see......if we erase history we erase the lessons.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Liberal? Are you aware of the political demographics of the U.S. Army? Apparently not.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      The worst political correctness is the abuse of the term political correctness. Are you implying that it is political correctness to NOT use the word n*gger? You're an ignorant fool who just yells "stop this political correctness" every time YOU are offended by people trying to do the right and just thing...

      May 7, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Reena

      All black people in America are NOT African Americans...and believe me when I tell you...there are poor, deprived, and uneducated white people in this messed up world too. Why not focus on a way to help all people and not just a certain group of people...think outside the box! That's why this country is not going to be able to stand...we (as a people) are too busy pointing out other races as being less than or not worthy! Some people are so simple!

      May 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • catmom

      Ha ha ha! Francis. The minute a program came out that did exactly what you said, feeding the African American homeless and employing African Americans, you and other people would be all over the forums whiningg that President Obama is doing more for them than he is for white people. Statistics have alread been taken reflecting that even though that is far from the truth. I'm just sayin.....

      May 7, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Layna

    As a black american, I find nothing wrong with it. It is part of history wether folks like it or not. Just a slavery was to. If you think about it, because of that painful period, we black americans have it wonderful compared to our ancestral homeland. Everything happens for a reason!

    May 7, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • brian

      Hey Lana I wasn't tryin to b racist I was makin a point hope u weren't offended by it

      May 7, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Rational

      I agree, it is part of history. If we go back and change every reference to discrimination future generations will wonder what was such a big deal about the civil rights protests. We need to keep all the "uglies" from our past to remember lessons learned.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Reena

      One thing for is very important that people of color know about the past. This way it is ensures that something like that NEVER happens again. That was a horrible period in our history and nothing for anyone to be proud of! It is full or ignorance!

      May 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. car1944

    The joke itself is as racist as they come, but funny.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. Truth

    The word was common.....leave it, it's part of history. Move on people....that's why Cali is broke right now. They have plenty graves in the south like that......big deal. Worry about the history that's happening right now and wake up. Watch out for the Boogy Man!!!!!

    May 7, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Yeah? Why don't you post your info and where you plan to be buried, and I will immediately establish a small trust to replace your headstone that reflects what I (or somebody else who doesn't like your race or ethnicity or weight or religion or socioeconic status or inbreeding) feels about you. If you feel comfortable with what will be done with your headstone after you are gone, I will agree with your views on this cemetary. I mean, it will reflect "history", right? Let me know.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      @ Kelly – NICE! Couldn't have said it better myself! How bout he tells us where his grandmothers grave is and we can go and take care of it! How'd that make you feel "Mr. Part of our History?"

      May 7, 2011 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
  6. Lisa

    If you obscure history you are doomed to repeat it.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Interesting and thoughtful post. But the act of desecrating a person's headstone in the 1950s is something that should be corrected. To comment on these racist acts, we could do something separate that didn't involve fouling the person's gravesite.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Many have chosen not to read or understand the article...

      May 7, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. History Lesson

    I think we should just get the history lesson right: They are not African Americans...They are African Slave Americans...that's what should go on the gravestones. The whole premise is ridiculous...white ancestors didnt steal the blacks from Africa, they sold them to the Europeans...I guess Africa didnt want them either.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      If you are cgoing to correct history, then please tell the full history. It was Black Africans that enslaved other black africans and traded/sold these slaves to American/European sailors to bring to America and sell as a product.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Reena

      Sooooo should the head-stones of white people denote their race and not their names?....its so sad that people thought (as still do today) that one race was better than another. I guess thats why the ignorance continues (from all races). Continue to fight about the superiority of your race until other races believe it!

      May 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Well said Reena!

      That is one reason, as a white, I am eager for the day hispanics overtake us as a racial group. When whites are no longer the majority, perhaps then we will learn as a group to behave better.

      Then again, it didn't work in South Africa, so maybe I'm just being naive...

      May 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • catmom

      Right and whites had no role in keeping them enslaved and trying to keep them uneducated and poor, right? I mean it isn't as if they were turned lose after they were shipped here in chains in cargo ships and sold off, beaten and starved, right. No I suppose white Americans were just doing them a favor.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wzrd1

    Well, those whose graves are there haven't complained, but the community has. It SHOULD have been changed when complaints were registered. By the US Army Corps of Engineers, who placed them there in the first place.
    Apparently, voters have the voice of the dead, equally unheard by the government that placed those markers there.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tif

    I have mixed feelings about this. I feel to keep the ugly truth in place is important for future generations to see. If we erase history we erase the lessons.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Sure

      They can replace the wording with some that shows respect for the deceased, and add a historical marker at the cemetery that explains what occurred with the graves and headstones.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      And they can also take pictures and put the story in history books where it belongs!

      May 7, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Good idea Sure.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Buck T. Ooth

    @ Swoon.. probably,but its a mute point know.The jokes been censored... .

    May 7, 2011 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • B33tle

      It's "moot", not "mute".

      May 7, 2011 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      it's "moot" not "mute"... is wonderful for those with just enough intelligence to attempt to seem intelligent...

      May 7, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. johnny b

    Black Americans and all Jewish people are the most forgiving souls in world history.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • B Lindie

      Yeah...the ones who don't know any better.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Any clue what B Lindie's comment even means?

      May 7, 2011 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      I hope you are being sarcastic. Both have effectively used the media as a tool to instill guilt rather than forgiveness. Jews are still mad at being enslaved and later forced out of Egypt. Every type of race has found itself imprisoned in some sort of slavery throughout history, yet african americans use the white man guilt card till this day.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Buck T. Ooth


    May 7, 2011 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. miara

    It is so easy for those who are not black to say leave it alone its part of history, i wonder though whether they would feel the same if it were members of THEIR race that were lying under a slab of concrete for years with a word as hateful thrown carelessly across it..

    May 7, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Don't care what "race" they is an abomination that needs to be fixed.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  14. American

    “We can only say with certainty that it is reflective of a shameful period in American history when racial intolerance was commonplace,”

    Considering Muslims have replaced blacks as the most racially oppressed people in this country during the last half decade; considering it is socially acceptable amongst most walks of life to denigrate Muslims at the dinner table, I would call racial prejudice quite commonplace in this country.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • B33tle

      "Muslim" isn't a race; therefore someone using the term isn't a racist.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Interesting post. I agree in some respects–The loser racist/ xenophobes love bashing anybody of the Moslem faith. Then again, the Moslem faith needs to marginalize those in the crazy wing of the religion (see reports on CNN today describing activists in London protests vowing to seek "revenge" for the death of Osama). I think there may be some differences here.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • MelanieW

      I want to start by saying that I am not trying to offend anyone, everyone has their right to their opinion. This is simply mine.

      But Kelly, isn't it our duty as an intelligent and intellectual society to be mature enough to realize that of COURSE there are good and bad Muslims, and that the only Muslims who should be blamed are those who are planning or have committed offenses? Why should they have to prove themselves innocent? I thought it was the law of this land to be innocent until proven guilty? I thought our generations pride ourselves on not resorting to the easy way out, to just discriminate and go with the flow to fit in...

      In my opinion, saying, "I am leary of Muslims because you never know when they will attack you" is a lazy excuse to be prejudice because it is easier to blend in with the crowd and just say "Muslims are questionable... look, we have good evidence to suggest bla bla" than to really just stand up for the damn truth. The majority of American Muslims are just trying to fight for a normal lifestyle and to live peaceful lives.

      Yes, there certainly is a terrorist threat. Yes we must be extremely careful and be vigilant in surveillance with probable cause. I think Muslims would agree that they would tolerate the extra screening and surveillance if they were assured that we understand wholeheartedly that most are completely innocent. We are just protecting both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Reena

      Racism is very commonplace in America and the sad thing is that everyone blame it on another race! Seriously...We (Americans) need to open our eyes and stop behaving as if this world only belongs to "certain" people. This is a melting pot and will NEVER change! So learn to roll with it.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |

    May 7, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
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