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. Agnim

    "Covering/revising history" or CORRECTING THE WRONGS OF YOUR ANCESTORS?

    The sins of the ancestors ARE the responsibilities of the descendants to 'set right'.
    And so, incorrect labels, say, from ignorant ancestors WILL BE corrected by their 'wiser' descendants.
    From some of the responses, those wiser descendants aren't in this generation. lol

    May 7, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Boyd

    Does this mean that one day in history the word RedNeck will be replaced with a more politically correct name. Or what about white man. Oh white man has been replaced by the politically correct name of Caucasion.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. LuxG

    Why must we always try to erase our history?

    May 7, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  4. mslman71

    Am I the only one that finds it positively ridiculous that everyone knows what the "n word" is but yet we can't speak of it or even show it on a tombstone? Really? Our obsession with words is insane.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. gail

    Where is my comment that I post???

    May 7, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      it seems that CNN filters don't let the word "neg ro" get through...

      May 7, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  6. oldguy

    CNN will readily show pictures of;
    1. The bodies of American soldier's being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu
    2. Sniper videos of insurgents in Iraq killing American soldiers
    3. Charred bodies of Americans hanging from a bridge in Falllujah

    but feels compelled to blur a hateful 6-letter word.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Holy Carp

    Why did it take 50 years for anyone to step up and do the right thing here?

    May 7, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Kathleen

      Some people have a very sick and disgraceful sense of so-called "humor," no doubt. A bunch of white govt employees who think they were being funny. I guess they were dumb enough not to realize it wasn't funny at all.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Do to censorship we have no idea what Craig Johnson is talking about. What racial epithet is he talking about? Big Brother has censored the freedom of speech and people don't even care. Does this mean that if I want something written on my gravestone that it must meet the Cemetery Censors approval.? From this gravestone we know the person to be UNKNOWN, do we even know what race he was? from the camera angle little else can be read except UNKNOWN MOVED. Personally I think all cemeteries should be eradicated and all bodies cremated or buried at sea. The use to much prime real estate and are a reminders of past wars and other hatreds.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. betty

    @Benny: taxes too high? Maybe you should look at history a little closer. we have the lowest tax rate in ages. read, don't just get your info from propagandists! Also, like it or not, we need taxes to pay for infrstructure and security. You have a problem with that?

    May 7, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      @ Betty... I admit that my initial urge is to write something dispariging in reply to you. So instead I'd like to ask you a question. Do you have children? I don't, but I pay for yours! Did you realize that almost 80% of your property taxes (NJ) goes to the schools? Your comment "we need taxes to pay for infrstructure and security" doesn't take that into account does it? My property taxes, to live in a house that I bought and paid for, on land that I bought and paid for, that I have to pay the township and state for the dubeous privilage to live in, are roughly $7,000/yr which is average for NJ. 20% or $1,400 goes to "infrstructure and security" yet I still have potholes and other such nonsence while $5,600 pays for the education of your little snot-nosed troglodites. Ohh.. My township doesn't have water or sewer either...

      As for security... Read my original comment again. I've been in 4 "wars". We aren't worried about ANYONE else in the world. Trust me. Well, maybe parts of Asia, but they don't count yet. Police you say? Ohh... My township doesn't have a police force either. Yet most of us leave our windows open when we go to work...

      Maybe if you live in an area where "infrstructure and security" are a consern of yours you should consider moving to a more inviting place.

      So in answer to your inane ranting. Yes. Taxes suck. Back on toppic now.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      @ Benny your more than welcome to move to somewhere where you don't pay taxes, oh wait those are called 3rd world countries ..never mind ..maybe we should cut your social security and medicare , since you don't like paying for those things .. your inane ramblings and attacks on Betty's childern show just exactly who you are !! doubt your a vet!!

      May 7, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • DaisyinAZ

      @Benny sounds like your mad that you bought land and a home in a terrible place to live. Its not anyone's fault but your own that the township you live in has so little services... you CHOSE to live there. As for your taxes paying for other children's education, think of it this way, would you rather live in an area were the people are well educated and can help bring jobs and services to your area or a place were the children really are the little troglodytes you refer to. Perhaps if more money went to education someone in your town would grow up and start realizing how terrible the living conditions are and actually do something about it rather than just complain!

      May 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Geeze, not more spending for political correctness

    I guess I'm more mindful of where and when I spend my money. While I don't live there, I've heard of the "scores of billions of dollars" that are needed for this kind of thing.

    Or, are the preachers too chicckshlt to pay for this, and simply pocketing the money from the collection plates?

    I love christians, they mouth off a lot, but then expect the government to pay for stuff like this. If that's the case, then they need to lose their 503(b) status and be required to pay taxes. Because the first time that they dig into any State's funding, they are on longer exempt from taxation.

    So this concept opens the door to Mucho Grande tax contributions to the STATE.

    It ticks me off that they can come begging, moved to the front of the line I imagine, and beg for money. This is BS if I've ever seen it and I used to work on a cattle ranch.

    And I've seen what many of them preachers making over 60-70 thousand/year, which I assume is not taxed so they have plenty of money. Do good with your resources, when other funding runs dry.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • sockpuppet

      um not sure how all of a sudden it's the church's responsibility....whatever agency placed the original markers should be the one responsible for replacing them

      May 7, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. jay v

    Mm, the least this country can do is to try as hard as it can to make amends, and show remorse to try to erase that stain which will never come off. I don't know why its taking so long to the right things.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • 112321

      The race card is still used every day.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  11. lancesackless

    more friggin PC political BS...if we didn't have just thin skinned babies this wouldn't be an issue...

    May 7, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Kathleen

      You probably have no friends outside of your Klan friends and your spouse who is probably also your first cousin, huh?

      May 7, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • 112321

      @Kathleen. Calling someone a klansman is just as racial as N!@@3r

      May 7, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Ray

      Um, lancesakless said if we didn't have thinned skinned babies.... Sorry, who is he calling thin skinned? He must think it's ok to call a group of dead black folks n-word.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • sky1283

      Well, Ray, the dead people sure as hell don't mind. Why should we care?

      May 7, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chris Bourne

    It's history. Right or wrong, changing a word doesn't change history.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. pat

    Strangest bunch of nothing I've ever read on forums.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. kickstand

    America is a deeply racist, troubled place.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      Rightfully so!! tired of paying for losers, boozers , and abusers

      May 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kana

    Many things that were acceptable in the past are now considered unacceptable.
    We should recognize and accept the facts of what occurred in the past and learn from our mistakes.
    Erasing, rewriting, politically correcting history is the same as saying it never happened. Those reminders of the past are what we learn from so as not to make the same mistakes.
    I disagree that these grave markers should be "politically corrected". I think a better option would be educational signs at the cemetery to acknowledge the racial hatred oft he past along with positive information to help us learn and move on to accept our diversity.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Babbs

      I agree with this! I recall reading about "correcting" several locations/sites in the state of Maine with the same racial slurs from an earlier era.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
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