Mountain goes PC to honour black pioneer of the Wild West

Negrohead Mountain to be renamed after former slave who lived in its shadow

For years, the Hollywood liberals who decamp to Malibu each summer have been forced to speak in hushed tones when describing one of the tallest landmarks in the area, a 2,031ft peak called Negrohead Mountain. Soon, they will finally be able to hike to its scrub-covered summit without offending the forces of political correctness, after local officials voted to rename it Ballard Mountain in tribute to one of the area's first black pioneers.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed that the word "Negrohead" represents a racial slur, and asked the US Geological Survey to approve the proposed switch. The mountain's old and new names were inspired by John Ballard, said supporters of the change. He was a 19th-century settler who lived in the area.

"I believe in not altering history, but in this case the way to honour him is to do it appropriately," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was behind the motion. "The mountain wasn't named that because of its shape. It was named after him. I'm certain some people back then thought they were honouring him by using that name, as strange as it seems."

Ballard, a former slave from Kentucky, decamped to the Wild West in about 1860, trying to escape the racial divides of his home state. He originally settled in Los Angeles, then a small but growing town, where he became a prominent civic leader and figure in the black community, helping found the local African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1869. In 1880, having remarried after the death of his first wife, and with racial segregation growing in his adopted home, he moved to a small homestead 50 miles west in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the Pacific. "Historians speculate that the Ballards may have been responding to growing segregationist policies and attitudes many thought they had safely left behind in the antebellum South," said Mr Yaroslavsky.

By the turn of the century, he had acquired 320 acres of what later became Negrohead Mountain. Ballard, who later made a living selling firewood and working as a blacksmith, died in 1905.

The 1898 book Happy Days in Southern California, written by a Malibu landowner, Frederick Rindge, said white neighbours at one point burnt Ballard's home to the ground. "The real purpose was that some men with white faces and black hearts wanted to jump his claim after they got rid of him," Rindge wrote, adding that Ballard put up a sign over the ruins, which read: "This was the work of the devil." Today, the site of his former home is one of the most picturesque pieces of real estate in Southern California.

The US Geological Survey does not encourage geographical name changes but allows alterations when a historic name offends racial minorities. Ironically, it will not be the first time the organisation has approved a name change for the volcanic peak, near the tourist attraction of Seminole Hot Springs. During the 1960s, to comply with civil rights legislation, maps were tweaked to get rid of its even more offensive historic name, Niggerhead Mountain.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss