In a California cemetery, gravestones inscribed with the “N” word have stood since 1954. But an effort is now underway to remove the stones, which locals believe are offensive.
According to the Associated Press, 36 grave markers–some for Blacks who lived in California in the 1840s– in an Eldorado Hills, Calif. cemetery are emblazoned with the provocative term.
The graves marked final resting places for African Americans who were part of the settlement known then as Negro Hill and died there during the Gold Rush period in the 1850s.
But the graves gained the N-word when they were moved to accommodate an Army Corps of Engineers water project that flooded the original cemetery in 1954 when the Corps of Engineers relocated the bodies, employing an unknown contractor.
The result is 36 concrete grave markers that read, “Unknown, Moved from N—-r Hill Cemetery by U.S. Government -1954,” according to The Sacramento Bee.
Michael Harris, leader of the Negro Burial Ground Project, has been working to remove the stones for a decade.
“Why is it a challenge to remove that? Nobody really understands,” Harris told the Bee. He said that he first discovered the graveyard in 1998 and was shocked, but the site didn’t gain attention until his campaign to change the markers began in 2006.
County officials say that they have developed a tentative plan to replace most of the markers, but they will keep one with an explanation of the discrimination and its correction. Harris, a 47 year-old student of African American culture, said the plan would have to be endorsed by supporters of his campaign.
According to Fox News Sacramento affiliate KTXL-TV, a local Boy Scout troop brought additional public attention to the issue and raised money to change the headstones.
AT&T offered to spend $20,000 to remark the stones. But Harris discouraged the effort saying, according to the Auburn (Calif.) Journal, “the idea of brushing the markers under the table, so to speak, in a hidden, cloaked process showed further disrespect.
“The story, for whatever reason, is beyond the cognition of those who just want to change the grave markers without telling the broader story of Negro Hill…You can’t put a stop sign on a street without telling people what you’re going to do and why you’re doing it in a study.