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Negrohead Mountain Name Changed ~ Malibu

Ballard Mountain

Ballard Mountain
Ballard Mountain

Called "N*****head Mountain" for more than 100 years, Negrohead Mountain was renamed in the 1960's and is finally being renamed again, this time after one of Los Angeles' most interesting pioneers. The LA Times reports:

Negrohead Mountain is an unlikely memorial to a former slave who made a name for himself at the western end of Los Angeles County. More than 120 years ago, pioneers in the Santa Monica Mountains named the peak for John Ballard, the first black man to settle in the hills above Malibu.

Ballard was a former Kentucky slave who had won his freedom and come to Los Angeles in 1859. In the sleepy, emerging city, he had a successful delivery service and quickly became a landowner. Soon he was active in civic affairs: He was a founder of the city's first African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The arrival of the railroad triggered a land boom in Los Angeles in the 1880s, boosting property values and bringing the city its first sense of class structure and the beginnings of segregation.

Ballard packed up his family and moved about 50 miles west to the snug valley in the middle of the Santa Monica range. He settled first on 160 acres -- space that eventually doubled in size when one of his seven children, daughter Alice, claimed an adjoining plot.

The BBC attended the name change ceremony: Reports:

A California peak formerly known as Negrohead Mountain has been officially renamed in honour of the black pioneer who settled there in 1869. The 619-metre peak near Malibu, became Ballard Mountain after John Ballard, a blacksmith and former slave. Dozens of Ballard's relatives attended the renaming ceremony on Saturday.

The name originally contained an even more offensive racial slur which appeared on federal maps, but was changed to "negro" in the 1960s. The US Geographical Survey approved the change last year after an application by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors...

The name change is the result of years of hard work by Moorpark College Professor Patricia Colman. From the Moorpark Student Voice:

Thanks to the work of a Moorpark College history professor, a Southern California mountain will be renamed to honor the man who first settled in the area and erase the original racial slur.

History Prof. Patricia Colman and the National Park Service have been working together since 2005 to change the name from Negrohead to Ballard Mountain in honor of the first settler, John Ballard, who was African American..According to Colman, the name change will take effect in about 10-12 months.“We need to start recognizing all pioneers, black, and white, whatever, so we can get a better understanding,” she said. ““This isn’t just black history, it’s all history.”

Ballard's existing relatives were at the renaming ceremony:

"I don't know what it means to Los Angeles as a whole, but it means a lot to me," Ballard's 85-year-old great-grandson Reggie Ballard, a retired LA Fire Department captain, was quoted as saying.

Photos from Talkin' Stuff

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