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)

    The GOLDEN RULE examplifies, what you do uponto others indiscretionately, will be done uponto you discreetly. Therefore, THANKS GOD ALMIGHTY for:Sworn SWORDS,Special Forces,prisons, guilloteens,electri chairs, firing squads, hangmen,police,judges and magistrates,global survailense systems and the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.Please have a good day.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. terry oats

    All this racial stuff needs to come to an end. Just because of color doesnt make a person bad, or a target of evilness.. Now alot of black people are so racist against white people, and do evil things to them because they are white.. It is not the white people of today, their fault for all this junk that happened in the past.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Aaron

    It's all part of history at this point. Including the relocated cemetery on a history tour might help people realize how things used to be.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. marisa

    I don't know if I necessarily agree with them changing the gravestones. It is history; that's what the language then was. I don't think it's necessary to change something like that because it makes the history of when that was actually happen seem like it didn't exist. Having it still remain reminds us of how far we've come in this country.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Muhammad

    NONE IS GOD EXCEPT ALLAH is never going to change

    May 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Allah sucks dog schlong

      May 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      The best part of Allah ran down his mother's leg!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Allah's favorite past time is a jar of peanut butter and a german shepard!!!!!!!

      May 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Just saying...

      May 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    I don't get it... which racial epitaph was used?

    May 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |

    ..."And the gates of hell will not prevail"

    May 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pilfer

    No, they were not prisoners. They were citizens of a TOWN. Apparently it was a mining community.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ry guy

    Flame board. Shame on you cnn.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. poop

    why did you censor the picture?

    May 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Will

    Yes, CNN's coverage of anything having to do with the dreaded N-WORD is a hugely ridiculous problem. The only people who really get horiffically offended by this word are white people in Massachusetts. But the bigger problems (of which, again, white people in Massachusetts are extremely guilty) relates to censorship and even worse, historical revisionism. In the 19th century, the DREADED N-WORD wasn't a bad word. It was simply the term for a person of color. The word has a bad connotation today, in 2011, but we cannot pretend that everyone who used the word in years past is some kind of horrible human being. Mark Twain uses the DREADED N-WORD hundreds (thousands?) of times in his two masterpieces, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huck Finn. What other word was he supposed to use? Was he supposed to call black people cauliflowers? That wouldn't make any sense. The bottom line is that it's appropriate to be polite, but not at the expense of historical revisionism. White people who helped escaped slaves make their way to freedom in the middle of the 19th century referred to this genre of human being using THE DREADED N-WORD. Were these early abolitionists horrible racists worthy of our scorn? Of course not. A word is just a word, and meanings change over the course of history. Everyone needs to get a grip and apply some perspective to this issue.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Xianghua

      I 100% agree with you! It is amazing how the word has changed over time, when in the past it was apart of their vocubulary but not in a negative connotation. Even in today's society, some view it as a word of friendship or brotherhood, others view it as racists, while others use it as a history lesson. It is a word assiciated diferently amongst and within different associations.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fascinated1

      What other "racial" group of people in America is referred to en masse by one word often expressed in disgust?

      IIf the N word was only a name, it wouldn't be a problem. But it represents so much more and carries so much violence and hatred (I dare say even self-hatred for the current users) that it truly needs to go. I'm over 50, so for you younger people this might not resonate, but for the civil rights era generation, and those older, it has always been more than just a name for people of African descent, and it's eradication is long overdue.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. LOL@YOU

    Lol...they censored it....what a dumba55 news station.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tim

    I see that many people on here confuse the offensive slur with another word that is used by the minority youth in US today, and it is n. i. g. g. a. It is not the same word as the one that is referenced in the article.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fascinated1

      No, it is the same word, just modified in an attempt to deny it's root meaning. This attempt fails since it looks like self-loathing.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Laura

    Im pink, and always admired black for gorgeous skin and better stregnth teeth skin muscles and numerous showing courage for faith and forgiveness towards manKIND LIVING UP TO ITS NAME. I learned a lot by these comments, realizing blacks were sold by blacks, and there was even more white slaves trafficking in Europe? More than black to U.S? Well, LEAVE IT! Use money to feed living! And all races. And, maybe the blacks were lucky to have their own hill as many white souls may have been going straight to hell! Oh what a dumb thing to thInk! A soul, like love, doesnt have a color! You get the point. I think its nice some people are honoring the dead, but agree, its history. Those people are really free now!

    May 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. gail

    What happened to my damn 1st comment that was posted, CNN????

    May 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
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