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. P

    This is the equivalent of auschwitz being paved over and putting a jewish temple on the site. You must never try and sterilise history otherwise it will easily be forgotten. The people organising this have good intentions. However they are misguided.

    May 7, 2011 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jack Meoff

    This is just a simple thought, or one to think about. Why would we all try and correct what was done in history, when these "rap stars" today continue to call themselfs worse names and make it seem like its ok and cool to do amoungst themselfs. I feel once they can correct there disrespectful names they call one another, then we should correct names or sayings that were put many many years ago. They are quick to pull a race card, and scream for respect but they continue to disrespect and degrade themselfs.

    May 7, 2011 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      You're correct. A VERY simple thought...

      May 7, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. empty

    My people name the cemetery for the bad dark souls that got laid to rest. stop tring to chang history people. Blk americans always tring to change things becuase of racesime it not always about blk what about the mex

    May 7, 2011 at 3:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Reena

      Time will tell who is always trying to change things. Not all people of color want to change things...just want equality. Let's see what your thoughts are when the Mexicans become the majority. Can't wait!!!!!!!

      May 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Zoul

    Its not about washing away history. You want to put the tombstone in a racist museum, whatever this is crazy. If my ancestors had some sort of insult written on their tombstone it is vandalism plain and simple. I am surprised at how stupid these comments are. Get some sense people.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      “We can only say with certainty that it is reflective of a shameful period in American history when racial intolerance was commonplace,” Lt. Col. Andrew B. Kiger ... I can only assume he means from 1776 to Present...

      I agree this should be fixed. No one should have there final place of rest marred or disturbed. I also love the fact that the California Prison Industry Authority will be doing the "repairs". Gives a few prisoners some honorable work to do. What bothers me with this is the simple fact that Prison Labor is one of the most expensive labor forces to the taxpayers. This shouldn't be coming out of the hard working average American's pockets. Someone owns the graveyard. Let them foot the bill. It's their responsibility to maintain their grounds.

      Irony: "Ralph White of the Stockton Black Leadership"

      May 7, 2011 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. just me

    So here is my opinion because so many of you guys Are arguing. i agree with some and disagree also. the name of the cemetry needs to be changed. i also believe that its not up to the government to change the headstone with all the crisis that are going on now. The decased still have family out there that should choose rather to change it or not. Some may say its an insult and some believe its history. What the family decides to do with their headstone is up to them. if they decide to change it then the family should pay for it. not the taxpayers. i am mexican and italian and what they put on my headstone is up to my family. i would be in a better peaceful place. i would know who i was when i was alive. i wouldn't care what they put. the people in my life knew me for who i was. just leave it alone and the families handle this business. Its not the public's business. and for most of you out there. grow up! WE'RE ALL AMERICANS! WE FIGHT FOR EACH OTHER AND WE LIVE/DIE FOR EACH OTHER!

    May 7, 2011 at 4:25 am | Report abuse |
    • jesus

      your opinion doesn't matter

      May 7, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  6. Doug

    The state is totally broke.. And they have money to change what was totally acceptable at that time.. And you know what, they are dead.. Dead, they won't ever know the difference..

    May 7, 2011 at 4:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Bcarr

      Hey Doug,

      Why don't you let us know where your ancestors are buried so we can go and knock over their tombstones and then write something hateful on them?

      Don't you read? Read the article again – the racial epithet was NOT a part of the original tombstones. Some idiot defaced them. And the word was never acceptable to decent people. I'm old as anyone here and probably older and that word was never EVER something that someone said and didn't know what they were saying was wrong.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      @Bcarr... Actually the word "Nig..." wasn't considered an insult until the 1900's. Being a Spanish and Portuguese derivitive of Neg ro (Spanish for black) it was used commonly as early as the 1600's to denote ANYONE who was dark-skinned (non-white) African and Asian, most commonly from India or nearby countries. The word was commonplace right up to the 1950's where it became a "key word" to describe a people in a derogitory way.

      Simply put. It started as a way of describing a people based of their color, similar to white instead of Anglo-Saxon, and was not intended to be derogitory. Humans made it derogitory by their actions, whatever side of the proverbial fence they resided on. Similar to the word that starts with "P" that refers to a cat. Never intended to be used as a noun for female genitals...

      Kinda sad when you think that these are all just words. It's a shame people have to have feelings for them one way or another. We've lost many great works of art and literature because of silly emotions. Books by Conrad, Dickens and Twain. Thousands of Greek statues with genitalia broken off...

      It's sad that people have to react so to simple letters put next to eachother.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      Abysmal ignorance. This is the dumbest comment I have ever read here. You are hopeless.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Benny, Benny, Benny – Words have built up and brought down whole civilizations. Words have been used as an instrument of death. Words feed the soul and can destroy the spirit. Words MATTER!

      May 7, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      I know tcp... I just think it's a shame that people have to carry such beliefs. It must be a burden. It just shouldn't be this hard. Life, although a constant struggle, should be easy. It could be if we all just let it.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mglaze68

    I know that nobody would be talking about the cost to the taxpayers if some idiot desecrated the graves at Arlington National Cemetary. They would honor those brave soldiers and fix the graves. But when it comes to doing the right thing for African Americans people want to point to the cost. The people buried there are a casualty of a different kind of war called racism. These people were subjected to the worst kind of hatred and bigotry during their lives, the least we could do is give them some dignity in death. Its not about political correctness its about doing what is correct.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Bcarr

      EXACTLY. I'm glad that someone else besides me actually READ the story. The racial epithet wasn't a part of the original tombstone. No one is trying to 'rewrite history.' These tombstones were defaced with graffitti. I surely wouldn't want to go to my ancestors' tombstones and see this crap written on them.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      sigh... Lets all get angry and say what awful people the "whites" are...

      This cra p gets sooo old. I am a proud white American. I've served my country with men and women of all color for 8 years until my spine was broken in Kosovo in the Army. I can honestly say neither I nor any of my last 4 generations have owned anyone yet my government decided to issue a formal appology in 2007 (i think) to the former slaves. Popular myth is the last "slave" died in the 70's (look up Charlie Smith, 137 yrs old?) and slavery was abolished in the 1800's... Any of you born then? Any of your great-grandparents born then?

      How many generations have to pass that weren't slaves that we whites have apologize to? Yes. Racism is real and sucks. Get over it. It's not going to go away. The majority of the world are uneducated troglodites. Maybe one day, but I expect to be long dead when it happens.

      Yep. Slavery in today's concensus is and was terrible. Had it been today, it would have never happened. The other side of the coin is that all of those supposedly harmed by the slave trade alive today (keep in mind they would be over 200 years old from prior to 1800's) wouldn't be here today. Most likely their ancestors would never have left Africa. Before you yell, I'm not saying it was right or they should be thankful. I'm just saying that they likely wouldn't have ever left.

      For the record. I love all people, except the taliban. I truly wish we could all live peacefully and comfortably in this world. It really is big enough for us all. I just think it's sad.

      By this way of thinking maybe we should apologize to the Egyptians for the thousands of years of slavery they endured. Or maybe all people of Germanic decent should apologize to all the Jews for the holocost and the actions of a few. My grandmother was directly from Iceland. Maybe I should apologize to all the people of Europe for the actions of my Viking ancestors who raided their costal towns a thousand years ago. I wonder how much the postage would cost to mail a letter to everyone in Europe?

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

      I take it back... I love all people, except the taliban & illegals.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Benny, Benny, Benny...No one is asking us "whites" to apologize. We just want this injustice fixed. PS, my Great Grand Parent's family owned slaves...nothing to be proud of but there ARE people who have second generation history of slave-holding...or being "owned"...

      May 7, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. Realist

    So in 40 or 50 years from now, we will replace the same grave markers, because it is acceptable today, MIGHT not be acceptable in 40 or 50 years from now AGAIN? GET OVER IT! That was then, this is NOW.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Tell me where your ancestors are buried. I've got a little sumthin' I want to add to their markers...

      May 7, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  9. Not Toby

    Its really sad to see Whites on here who had the chance of a decent education, still remain so clueless. African-American denotes lineage. We are the decendants of Africans brought to America as slaves. Didn't teach mush @ your school, huh? Where do you think Irish-Americans came from? Or Italian-Americans? No, Bubba, not Africa..

    May 7, 2011 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
  10. Not Toby

    Hey History Lesson, where did you get your info? @ Klan U? 'they didn't steal the blacks from Africa. They sold them to Europe' or some such dumbness. Where'd they get 'the blacks'? They had a factory chruning them out?

    May 7, 2011 at 5:03 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      purchased from other blacks, as if u dint kno

      May 7, 2011 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      And that makes it OK in Mike's mind...

      May 7, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. Pat

    I would be pretty mad
    to have been treated in life the way those people had been treated,
    only to see my gravestone get more respect after I'm dead.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ancient Brit

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

    Like it isn't now.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Veritas vos Liberabit

    What word is on them?

    May 7, 2011 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      Immigration and Naturalization Service – Choose the one closest to you and tell them your address. They'll come tell you.
      1-800-375-5283 National Service Center.
      Los Angeles (Investigations – Report Illegals) – (213) 894-0400
      (415) 705-1251 San Francisco
      (201) 645-2240 Newark office, for New Jersey
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      (901) 544-0256 Memphis office, for Tennessee and Eastern Arkansas (extension 136)
      (907) 474-1025 Fairbanks office, for Alaska

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

    If these people would read their history books they would learn that the "N-word" has not always been a derogatory term but a denotation of skin color.

    May 7, 2011 at 6:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. History keeper

    Why do we keep erasing history. If the people that were here then had done this then we would know nothing about them only lies and false pretences.

    May 7, 2011 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
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