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)

    What's the surprise here? America has always been a racist nation. Just read the comments to verify that it still is racist today.

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

      The WORLD has always been racist. It ain't just here...

      May 7, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. goat

    finally we can give these dead niggrz some respect

    May 7, 2011 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tewrobert

    For some this "N" word fits very well. and you know who you are, What you sew you shall reap.
    When ever you attack a racist on either side your only making A deeper hate. Your not changing it at all....None of you do gooders are helping in this..Your not better than anyone else, You just havent walked in that persons shoes..
    But for others this name doesnt fit at all, There is some wonderful black people out there..
    I say this is a very good thing to do at this Cemetary.
    I fully agree on it being a Tax payers burden and the owner is responsible...
    I think some of the Black people do not realize how much support they have from the Whites......I do not think they have a clue..

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

      I don't think you have a clue either, Tewrobert...

      May 7, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tewrobert

    May our slave trading ancerstors rot in HE!! for that they have done to the world

    Including the biggest slave owner who resided in Texas who by the way was black also!!

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

      Lets not let facts get in the way of a good story......and possible future reparations.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |

      Why, you must be talking about Dubya. We were ALL his slaves.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. Carmen

    I am a black American and I think that the gravestones should be left as they are. Black Americans will forever carry the hurt of slavery and racism and I personally feel that white folks should forever carry the shame!

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

      Sir you are a true racist, To the bone, Dont look for thing to get any better until you change your ways,
      All your doing is putting a little gasoline on ther fire

      May 7, 2011 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
    • R. Mussared

      are these stone markers old? That makes them historical. I would leave them as a testamont of how we have come.

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

      So paint all those not of color as racists in perpetuity? Perhaps we need to rise above the notion that racism can only exist in whites and by your logic apparently its all whites because there is a possibility that an ancestor of mine may have been racist.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom Shriver

      Carmen, you were never a slave and I was never a slaveowner. You don't have it in your power to "shame" me.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Earl Butz

      On behalf of every white person everywhere who never owned a slave,

      eat me.


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

      Carmen, my ancestors were slave owners, yes. They had a very large tobacco plantation, and because of the end of slavery much financial damage was done to them. Eventually the land had to be sold off and I would like for you and all the rest of African Americans to pay me a little something. It's only fair.

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

      So all white people should be punished for some things that other white people did years ago? Things that were completely out of our control? Amusing. Maybe next time some black person robs and kills someone, you should go to jail too just because you are black. My ancestors did not own any slaves. In fact, my great grandfather was a slave himself. I find it disgusting that a race that cries out for equality is the first to put in the lines of separation.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Patricia

      Carmen, the point of removing the epithet is to honor those who were "disgraced" by it on their tombstones. I too am African-American, but I don't agree with you in saying you should continuously reap coals on the "Whites" so they can carry shame for something an ancestor may have done. The epithets are hurtful and do something to the soul, but I applaud the efforts of those who want to correct this wrong.

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

      Who sold slaves? Oh wait, I can't say that black Africans sold them, only that white people bought them. Black people are as guilty and as shamed as the whites who bought them. Of course that wouldn't support your RACIST cause would it.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • AmericanSam

      That's not fair. I'm a white American. I voted and will again vote for Barack Obama. I believe in racial equality. I did not own slaves. Someone who insists on an entire race carrying shame is not a good person.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • JT

      If you think whites should carry shame then blacks should carry shame as well since they are the ones who sold your ancestors into slavery. I know a lot of blacks just think whites came to the shores of Africa and hunted down slaves.but that was rare. It was African tribes who conquered other tribes and then sold them into slavery.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • carolyn

      I work directly across the street from a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, every year the black folk protest it; then the white folk protest the black folk protesting this thing. My comment has absolutely nothing to do with this article.
      Forrest and his wife are buried under this thing. Mostly pidgeons crap on it. Tee Hee Hee.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Carmen, I am white, and I hold no shame whatsoever about something that occurred long before I was born. It may be time for you to get over feeling victimized by something that happened long before you were born, too.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • i rock

      what a great racist comment! Carmen=sterile chld

      May 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • catmom

      Okay, so we know you all don't want to deal with slavery. Fine, now how about dealing with what black people were put through in our life time. Segregation in housing and schools, Jim Crow laws. Not being able to eat in restaurants or stay in just any hotel. Not being hired for jobs even though you had more education and/or experience. Not being able to go to a particular school. I mean having the National Guard escort you to school just because of the color of your skin. Not being trusted to be in the military and when they did decide they needed you, kept you segregated and used you as basically janitors and cooks, all the jobs that were beneath white people to do. Not being able to participate in hmmm... the Miss America Pageant. Not seeing images of you in magazines, as toys, on television. This is in OUR lifetime. Many of us have memories of the way it was. And all people want to do now is ignore it. I didn't do it so get over it. But this is what was happening in our life time. In the 30's, 40's 50's 50's and 70's and even today seeing how some people are reacting to the first African Amerrican President. And I hate to bring this in but that is why the treatment of the first African American President is so hurtful but very telling.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tony M

    I know that the term is highly offensive to many people BUT, for that exact reason, I think it should be kept. That may sound backward but how are we going to get it across to future generations as to just how bad things were if we go through and cover-up, paint over, etc, etc every instance and don't leave physical, solid evidence as to what really happened? People tend to not believe something unless they can see it and/or touch it so we NEED to leave some of this around to prove to the future that it WAS real and why we must NEVER FORGET or allow ourselves as a society to slide back into that kind of negative and hateful mind set.

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

      So, we should allow these people's graves to remain with this nasty, racist epithet just so YOU can feel good about yourself and "teach" future generations about racism in America? How 'bout we just teach it in school?

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

      @tcp, I don't think that's what he was getting at. Sort of a "teach by example" thing. However, the only thing wrong with that are the individuals who have that as their gravestone. I know they are no longer alive, but to have the only thing to mark your remembrance be a gravestone with the N-word on it would be pretty harsh.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Darth Cheney

    Whitewashing our history only makes the past's influence on the present fuzzier.
    "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." – Santayana

    May 7, 2011 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. tcp

    Genocidal racist!

    May 7, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Moon Cricket

    if they can pay for headstones, they can pay my mortgage.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
    • carolyn

      On Thursday, the California Prison Industry Authority offered to replace the gravestones free of charge.

      i copied and pasted this directly from the article. DUH.

      May 7, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ct

    Here's a little story you may not know, More White Europeans where held in Africa as slaves than were blacks in America. Est. 2million and let me tell you, they were not treated nearly as good. Look it up, use the search bar

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

      You are either foolish or naive or even stupid to make such a comment. Millions of Black Africans were stolen from Africa and taken to the America's as slaves. There may have been several thousands of white europeans, mostly women & children removed from Europe by the Moors. Whatever article that you read, that said anything else was probably written by the KKK or white power racist movement. Maybe Sarah Palin wrote that Article while watching Russia from her front porch

      May 7, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. Winton Ben-Wa

    Y'all be racialist against my peoples.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. George

    This is just the kind of wasteful spending by local state and federal governments that has nearly bankrupted America.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Boyd

      I agree with george.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. keith

    just leave them alone and quit trying to change the past – the past IS the past and should be left as is. You already have succeeded in changing the fact that old Tom and Jerry cartoons no longer have a smoking cat and other changes.....just give it up. Change is making it happen NOW so that going forward things are better, not going back and changing things.....idiots have too much time on your hands that could be better spent on more important things

    May 7, 2011 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  14. Charlie in Maine

    Leave them alone or else people like Donald Trump and the birthers will start saying "Slavery never happened". I've seen a concentration camp with my own eyes. They could rename the gas chambers as "showers" but that does not change what happened there and we should NEVER forget.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. bobc

    I'm not so sure they should be replaced. We should never forget the sins of our past. If these are removed, a small piece of history is re-written. At the very least, the offending stones should become part of an exhibit in a museum or other historical display.

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