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)

    Why are we changing history? We have changed history so much in the name of Political Correctness, our grandchildren won't know what the reality of the era was. It's ridiculous.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • kickstand

      So you won't mind it I go to your grave and replace the stone your family erected with one that says "Here lies Donna. She was a s1utty bi1ch!"

      May 7, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Veglvr

    Either god or satan will take care of it? Is that what he really said? LOL!!! HUMANS will fix this, not some invisible, silent being that no one can prove exists. Get a grip!

    May 7, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. Just Human

    The only reason this word is racist is because people chose to make it that way. In 50 years Caucasian will be racist. Get a grip.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. Selmers

    Racism is good and should be embraced!

    May 7, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |

    One "TRUE GOD" indeed. And this does not mean that any nationality survives above another if it is not absolutely necessary. We the peaple internationally understand without the slightest regard for the color of our hair,skin and eyes,but rather the highest regard for the contents of our hearts and the manifestation of our intentions.Examine yourselves. INDEED,United We Stand.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dave seattle

    I love how the really angry guy is named Mr. White,"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."

    May 7, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Daveil

    CNN is so politically correct that they have to blur the photo to hide the "n word". Yes, it is a racial slur but censoring the photo is stupid.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Richard Long

      It is also a common term used affectionately by today's minority youth. Get over it CA.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      I'm sure Mr. UNKOWN was offended. I take it these were all ex prisoners, will they be buried in another cemetery for criminals or are they going to integrate them with law abiding citizens? That may have some of the dead " TURNING OVER IN THEIR GRAVES".

      May 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pilfer

      In the context in which it was used in this case it was not intended nor is it currently understood when reading the gravestone as having been intended to be affectionate. Stop being an idiot. Claiming something is not racist because in another context spoken by another person in an entirely different era a word may at times not be intended to be racist is a retarded argument.

      @OP I agree the word should not have been blurred out.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert Gore

      The opinions of Caucasians are irrelevant in determining whether a particular use of N- is offensive. And I wasn't aware that we're supposed to keep punishing convicts even after they've served their time and/or died.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • evoc

      A couple of the replies to your comment prove that red-neck racism is alive and thriving even today. Though censorship is just as inappropriate.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whatever

      I don't think scrubbing away history is going to work. Words are constantly being censored for political reasons more than social. Definitions are edited or watered down or words removed completely. For what purpose is this done? Political correctness? There is an old quote from a long time ago that fit this perfectly.... 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' – George Santayana, 1905 Reason in Common Sense

      The word that we are censoring here is just the Spanish for black which is derived from the Latin word for black both are censored here in the USA land of the not so free and really dumbed down. I know the racial undertones that these words had back then, but they mean the exact same thing that we call people with dark skin today.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Edward

    @ Holy Carp

    It's a movement. It's part of the movement by the smartest most powerful white people to confuse non-white people into thinking they have some power...the power to keep white people from using certain words. But they still use them. That is how non-white people are mistreated on the basis of color.

    It's not so much the word as it is what the word describes, which is the function of the definition. If the use of the word allows people to see what they are looking at then it can be said that the word "reveals truth". If the use of the word confuses people, in terms of what the see when they are looking at it, then it can be said that it hides truth or produces falsehood.

    The thing about the use of this particular word is that it doesn't have a definition that makes sense. So in essence it is confusing. By using the term "the N word" you are not changing the definition of the word and therefore you are not really changing what the word describes when it is used.

    The smartest most powerful white people know this. The people who the word is used to describe don't know this. So the movement is to keep them confused and have them "feel powerful" in their own confusion. Once they begin to "feel powerful" they will not have any reason to seek power by changing the definition.

    It's a false sense of power.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Phil

    Let's bury that shameful past with those they disrespected.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bob

    But I thought CA was full of people loving could this be?

    May 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike V

      CA was (is?) also the home of the John Birch Society.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. rodney

    I think it should be changed there is no need for this non-sence

    May 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Richard Long

    If fifty years of indignity is enough to justify the cost of replacing grave markers think about the dignity of all of us that have had hardship in just the last few years. I vote we postpone this clear waste of money until better financial times? NOW is NOT the time to spend money on political correctness. NOW is the time to conserve financial resources and create jobs that expand the tax base.

    If elected officials want to do this out of their own pockets, NOT MINE, then have at it. But don't use my money for this.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • dwech

      Richard – the true cost of new gravemarkers is pretty small, and the benefit of respect is great. The issue is not one of 'political correctness', but simple respect for other human beings – the ancestors of those buried, and blacks in the community of Eldorado Hills. If the gravemarkers of the Long family were marked with racial epithets by state officials, I bet you'd feel differently. This is just the right thing to do, and part of 'society's cost' to do it.

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

      Ain't yer money once you pays it to the state DDDUUUHHH.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ward William

    Bloody absurd whitewashing of history. By doing this, future visitors and generations of children will not see how far the US has come. They will not see it as it was when this word WAS acceptable and they will never even know that at one time it WAS acceptable. Those who want to change this marker also want to play god with history.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Big Brother wants to selectively eliminate the _____word out of your vocabulary and while it's at it they will control what you eat, what you wear, what you think, and selectively go about erasing and changing history.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. r gladden

    why don't you ask some of the comedians who make their living off the N word if they would
    like to see the word remain?

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

    Why didn't they show the word? We all know what the word is, why blur it out? That is beyond silly. We can't confront the evils of our past if we sterilize them and hide them away from view. Grow up CNN. Do the right thing. It should offend people, because it is an offensive word, concept, and mindset.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
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