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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Filed under: California • U.S.
soundoff (481 Responses)
  1. adela

    Racist,facist,tea party,communist,anti christ-that's what the USA has become. Sad because so many of us sacrificed to make the future better for our children

    May 7, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Somewhat true, Adela, but keep faith that there are still good people alive in the USA. Not everybody is bad.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Reena

      I don't care what color of skin a person has. I love all people and that is exactly what I taught my children "See the person for who they are". Life is so much easier/better that way! Hate holds you down, expecially when you don't even know "why" you hate someone!

      May 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Buck T. Ooth

    I'm mute... .

    May 7, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. ruserious

    this is also just a way for ralph white – welfare scam artist and slum lord extrodinaire – to get his name back in the headlines .... i am dead serious that someone should expose him .... a nice juicy piece about his million dollar welfare scams , dirty practices as a council member , past as a known stockton pimp ... i could go on all day ! once again i say the tombstone business was a waste of tax money, ralph white should have been made to pay for them with the welfare money he scammed since he wanted to champion the cause, nnot the tax payers who could honestly care less!!

    May 7, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Turk

      The racists who changed the name of the cemetery are probably now dead – and are no longer racists. Their deed is done, let's fix it. The dead will answer to God.

      May 7, 2011 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. Amanda E.

    Great way to change history, just because it seems a little too PC. I understand that it makes people angry to see that word, but if you erase that part of history how are other generations going to understand that time period? Lame.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
    • SteveB

      One way to handle it would be to make new markers and place them next to the old markers. Then place a big old marker in that section of the cemetery to explain the history of the situation and that the old markers were left in place as a lesson in the ugliness of racism and to bear witness to how prevelant and socially accepted it once was.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
    • xavier

      shut up you idiot

      May 7, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I was thinking the same thing. We need to know the good the bad and the ugly.......

      May 7, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • V Saxena

      @SteveB - VERY GOOD IDEA!

      May 7, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Erik

      I don't particularly mind if certain offensive words are preserved as a matter of historical significance. For instance, I think some of the classic books shouldn't be edited. Having said that, this is someone's gravestone. We ought to show the appropriate level of respect. I agree with this idea.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • flerp

      Did any of you retards even read the story?

      May 7, 2011 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. KeithTexas

    California was settled by racist Americans that stole the state from the Mexican settlers. From 1850 on the Americans came and what they didn't steal with a gun they stole in crooked courts.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • MatarLaRaza

      And your point?

      May 7, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Plutonius

      Steal? The Americans purchased California along with the rest of Mexicans territories after the Mexican-American War. Funny thing is the United States offered a much higher price before the war.

      May 7, 2011 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  6. John D.

    Those racist southerners – oh wait this is in California...

    May 7, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    Go to bed junior and don't come back.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. Steve

    Freaking evil people. This is the right thing to do. We have a black president and a black first lady and they live in the White House. Get used to it and get over your prejudice.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      We have a white president and a black first lady. But dragging them into this has nothing to do with the article...

      May 7, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    Lot of Tee Baggin Repuglicant's here tonight.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Zoul

      Are you people stupid? Seriously? I see "teabagger" and "this is clearly rewriting history."
      If I was to etch insults on your gravestone its not a part of history. Since when do you go to a graveyard to teach history? Are you seriously that dumb?

      As for the "teabagger" What does any of this have to do with anything political. This is about tombstones, with insults written on them. Its about human decency which apparently you all lack.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:14 am | Report abuse |
  10. Veritas

    They need to replace your name with "idiot."

    May 7, 2011 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ver idiot


    May 7, 2011 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  12. Elizabeth

    I find this change HIGHLY offensive as it is a part of history. How can we teach future generations right and wrong when we make it impossible for them to see the wrong in the world? I am not trolling here. Leave the past and learn from it. I really can't believe the human race has become so overly sensitive.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
    • flerp

      I can't believe you're so fat and dumb lol americans (not trolling)

      May 7, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      How 'bout in a BOOK!

      May 7, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Reena

      Maybe their not becoming overly sensitive, maybe, just maybe, they always were but were never allowed to have an opinion...just maybe!

      May 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ian

    Wow you "tolerant" libs are nasty

    May 7, 2011 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
    • John D.

      They are tolerant – as long as you agree with them.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. George

    This is typical historical revisionism by destroying the facts. I have seen others purge the works "slave" from common vocabulary in the name of "advancement". In the end we will lose our past and be forced to repeat it. It is OK to be angry at these ignorant actions. This is not a racial issue, it is an issue of preserving humanity's lessons.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      And so if I desecrate your grandmothers grave without you knowing about it and two generations from now it is discovered, would YOU want it fixed or would you support leaving it as is for the sake of "history"? There are such things as cameras and books with which we can "preserve" this ugly act.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  15. JD

    I'm surprised some people continue to think acts of racism happened only in southern states. Racism is a national issue now and always has been. I grew up in the south however experienced blatant acts of racism for the first time in southern california.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
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