Wednesday, April 23, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Gravestones to be removed; process unclear

HEAVY LOAD — Larry Ealem, of Stockton, member of the Black African American Association, and Mike Contreras, owner of Stockton Monuments, carry a sample replacement tombstone after the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene.

NEGRO HILL - Larry Ealem, of Stockton, member of Black African American Association and Mike Contreras, owner of Stockton Monuments carry a tombstone after the board of supervisors meeting. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene.

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From page A1 | May 24, 2011 | 14 Comments

Racially offensive grave markers that have been in place since 1954 will be removed from the Mormon Island Relocation Cemetery at the west end of El Dorado County. Who will do the work, when it will be done and how the ugly chapter in history will be closed are questions yet to be answered.

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to invite “all interested members of the region” to come together and create a proposal that could finally resolve the issue.

Building on Supervisor John Knight’s efforts to enlist the California Prison Industry Authority’s vocational programs to do some of the construction and preparation work, the board directed county staff to include non-governmental entities, especially the Negro Hill Burial Project, in discussions regarding details of a proposal.

About 25 members and supporters of that organization attended the board meeting and several addressed the supervisors objecting to not having been included in the conversations with the CalPIA.

Ralph White, president of the Stockton Black Leadership Council, particularly took issue at “never having the opportunity to meet with Mr. Knight,” and that the “penitentiary” would appear to get the credit for solving the problem. “All we’re asking is to be considered and to be the lead agent for this project,” White said on behalf of the Negro Hill Burial Project.

If it were an issue of “American Indian, Hebrew or Mexican” remains, White suggested that representatives of those races or cultures would have been invited to participate.

“We don’t want to have a plaque that says prisoners corrected it… All we want is something nice,” he said, adding that “we definitely want to work with Chuck (Pattillo, general manager of CalPIA) on this.”

White’s group brought a stone tablet with the legend, “Unknown, Moved from Negro Hill Cemetery, by U.S. Government – 1954″ manufactured by the Stockton Monument Co. as an example of a new marker. The 36 markers placed by the Army Corps of Engineers during the construction of Folsom Lake had used the offensive “N” word to designate the cemetery of origin for the 36 sets of remains that were relocated to the Mormon Island site.

Knight’s resolution included a “letter of gratitude” to Eagle Scout, Joshua Michael of El Dorado Hills, who laid the groundwork for correcting the injustice of the past when he proposed to remove and replace the old markers with new ones more than two years ago.

Saying that his son did not need credited for his effort, Greg Michael told the board that “all Josh would ask is that this wrong be corrected. Please fix this today.”

Whether or not to keep one of the original headstones as a historical piece on display at the cemetery was a point of contention and was not resolved Tuesday. White and Michael Harris, director of the Negro Hill Burial Project, strongly urged supervisors  to  ”destroy” the offensive stones after sending a few to various academic institutions, the U.S. Attorney General and to President Obama. They said that history is well known and not necessary to keep on display, that it is an embarrassment to the county.

That, however, was not part of the supervisors’ resolution and will have to be addressed at future meetings of the “interested members of the region.”

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 14 comments

  • Ken SteersMay 24, 2011 - 2:40 pm

    Nice job Josh. Where the heck is Stockton? Thank you Supervisor Knight!

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  • susanMay 24, 2011 - 7:52 pm

    i would like this to come to an agreement quickly. this shows how some people can be uncaring. and it makes me sad that some people still think this way. get a life. fix the problem that should have never been.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • HangtownMay 25, 2011 - 8:40 am

    Black people seem to change their names every few years anyway. First it was the N-word, then they were Blacks, then they were African-Americans, now they are calling themselves People of Color, what's it going to be next year? And it is common practice today for black youth to call each other the N-word. They think its hip. I don't want our clueless Board of Stuporvisors spending my tax money trying to rewrite history. And they are spending my money when they are talking about this while the Board is in session. Leave the graveyard alone.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Ken SteersMay 25, 2011 - 8:49 am

    Hangtown, It is lucky for you that you don't use your real name. You exemplify what is wrong in our society. A little advice, don't go away mad, simply go away. Is there anyone that blogs on this string that agrees with Hangtown? I venture to say no.

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  • julianaMay 25, 2011 - 11:33 am

    Mr. Steers, you CLEARLY have not lived in "Hangtown" very long and I happen to FULLY agree with the signer of "hangtown" above and so you know, my real name is Juliana and I am a lifelong resident of Placerville. I think YOU should go away, and I bet you will go away MAD too. I think it is people that are trying to change history or somehow make it "go away" that are what's "wrong" with society.

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  • Jack MartinMay 25, 2011 - 10:39 am

    No, I do not agree with Hangtown and I can shed some light on his comment about young black kids calling each other the N-word. They can do it because they are in the "fraternity" as it were. By comparison, my close friends and I will occasionally call each other "bitch" or some other derogatory name. It's usually when one of us is goading another for some reason, but sometimes we say it for no reason at all. But if a stranger calls me that... now we have a problem. With that in mind, I understand completely why young black men will call each other the "n-word" but get offended when a non-black calls them that. For humorous illustration on language, fraternities and how males communicate, I recommend seeing that old movie "The Sandlot." Then you'll undertsand.

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  • Ken SteersMay 25, 2011 - 12:34 pm

    Juliana, there is no place in our society for racial bigotry of any kind. I know of no town named Hangtown in our county. PLACERVILLE. I've lived in this county my entire adult life. Juliana you are as much a racist as Hangtown. SHAME ON YOU I believe that the two people espousing racist remarks "Hangtown and Juliana" are actually subversive plants. Purely embarrassing.

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  • Chuck HollandMay 25, 2011 - 1:23 pm

    There are no cities in the United States with the name Hangtown, However Hangtown was the second name prior to the adoption of Placerville. First was Dry Diggins, then Hangtown, finally Placerville.

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  • Ken SteersMay 25, 2011 - 2:24 pm

    You know I know. Chuck, Juliana and Hangtown buddies of yours? JK

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  • Chuck HollandMay 25, 2011 - 2:28 pm

    Um no, dont know either one of them personally.

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  • Ken SteersMay 25, 2011 - 2:43 pm

    Could you comment on their statements sir?

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  • Nathan FoltzMay 25, 2011 - 2:56 pm

    When was the last time Hangtown said anything intelligent?

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  • James LonghoferMay 25, 2011 - 3:27 pm

    I don't think we are trying to change history, merely headstones. Even in 1954 the Corps of Engineers didn't routinely use the N word. Someone has donated the cost (AT&T??) and prison labor will do the work. What's the dispute unless you have some racial fish to fry here.

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  • JohnMay 26, 2011 - 2:06 am

    That would not make the groups who piggy backed this subject happy. They don’t want a sign saying prisoners fixed the headstones. To quote Mr. White: “We don’t want to have a plaque that says prisoners corrected it… All we want is something nice,” Something nice that has your name on it right? F**king pathetic, they could care less about replacing these headstones, they care about getting the credit for doing it. Honestly why does it seem like this issue is more about self-promoting than the actual issue? Why is the Stockton Black Leadership Council even involved? Last time I checked this was in El Dorado County..... Go back to Stockton and try to improve your community, god knows it needs it. Also, Mr. Harris, you are nothing but a self-promoting reverse racist.... think about it people, why has this is it that the people involved are arguing who fixes what, why not argue about the time frame of fixing the headstone, the funding, the historical merit.... why is it all about who get the credit.... this whole issue has snowballed into self-promotion, look what we did bulls**t. Just my 2-cents, as a tax payer in THIS county, I strongly oppose a group from Stockton getting involved and thus oppose this whole project.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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