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Central Valley | Education & Student Activism | Racial Justice

2014 Memorial Day Celebration ~ Negro Hill Burial Ground
by Khubaka, Michael Harris
Tuesday Apr 29th, 2014 3:12 PM
Today, 36 grave markers have new granite markers reflecting an authentic name for the Gold Rush Era community, however the documented story remains a contentious issue for many El Dorado County elected officials to consider, still. International support is requested to help finance the modern scientific methodology to identify, research and give a proper recognition to the early pioneers of African ancestry during the California Gold Rush Era.
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Since the close of last century, the goals of the Negro Hill Burial Project remain, compile primary source documentation, share a unique story and restore official historical markers to reflect proper dignity and respect for the pioneers of Negro Hill and the surrounding early Gold Rush pioneer communities.

Our U.S. Government approved official designation of "unknown niggers" of California pioneers during construction of Folsom Lake. The US Army Corps of Engineers ~ Negro Hill page has been removed… that mirrors the original challenge.

Can you feel the vibration of “unknown” pioneers who cry out for justice?

Negro Hill, California history comes alive during the ongoing Sesquicentennial Celebration of the California Colored Convention and Juneteenth (1855-1865).

The regional interfaith community continues to build on an amazing legacy, in 1854, Rev. Newton Miller noted that in his racially mixed Methodist Church at Negro Hills, “Negroes constitute nearly all the church members and are a majority of the congregation.”

Negro Hill was founded in early 1848 along the American River, east of William Alexander Leidesdorff, Jr. Memorial Highway, near today’s City of Folsom in El Dorado County, California.

Negro miners, farmers and ranchers were a very successful during the decade (1845 - 1855) and then began to suffer a similar fate as Black Farmers and Agriculturists in today's historic communities in the “Gold Rush Region of Sudan, "Land of the Blacks."

The major eastern United States maritime ports prohibited ‘freeborn men’ of African ancestry from the most lucrative career in the Age of Sail. 1830 – 1850 Negro Seamen Acts facilitated a mass migration of ‘expert’ Negro seamen and many found great success in Mexico, Caribbean, South America and the Pacific Rim.

The Gold Rush of 1848 and California U.S. statehood in 1850 expedited an influx of industrious free men of African ancestry to California and a wave of enslaved Africans from the Southern United States found a difficult path to freedom in California.
Negro Hills, CA is an extraordinary early Gold Rush community and maintains a golden historical legacy of the free migration of American citizens of African ancestry.

In 1849 three enterprising men from the New England seaboard named Vosey, Long and French opened a store and boarding house called the Civil Usage House, business was good.

Mormon Island / Negro Hill was the hub of a regional community that included Salmon Falls, Massachusetts Flat, Chile Hill, Condemned Bar and many smaller mining camps along the Gold River.

By 1854, portions of the deeply religious interfaith community of Negro Hill had deteriorated into a Wild West saloon and place of ill repute. The California State Legislature passed laws prohibiting Blacks from testifying in court, homesteading land, voting and public education, these and other environmental hazards helped to destroy the harmonious beginnings of Negro Hill, CA.

A small group of drunken, broke and destitute White citizens near the village of Negro Hill began to terrorize the Negro business community. Theft, fights and lynching were often encouraged because of the legal prohibition of equal access to the law in early California State History.

In 1857, Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney proclaimed in the Dred Scott case, “black folk have no rights that white folk are bound to respect.”

1855 - 1865, the California Colored Convention Movement began to address racial disenfranchisement, specific to ‘colored’ citizens in the State of California. This primary source documentation remains a salient reminder of part of the record.

Negro Hill business community was effectively destroyed to the benefit of Crocker Bank, Governor Stanford and other “prominent pioneer” families along Gold River.

Today, California State Historical Landmark No. 570 of Negro Hill is “missing,” yet remains outside of the radar of the California Parks Department, this 150th Anniversary.

A portion Negro Hill Cemetery was relocated during the 1950's construction of Folsom Dam; however, government officials sought fit to rename Negro Hill, “Nigger Hill” on 36 “unknown” grave markers.

Those grave markers have new granite markers reflecting an authentic name for the Gold Rush Era community, however the documented story remains a contentious issue for many El Dorado County elected officials to consider, still.
Today, we have the scientific methodology to identify, research and give a proper recognition to the early pioneers of African ancestry in Mormon Island Relocation Cemetery.

2015, is the 150th Anniversary of Juneteenth and the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution provides yet another wonderful opportunity to showcase early California Pioneers of African ancestry.

Memorial Day 2014, we continue to remember our ancestors, along our journey to form a more perfect union and prepare for a major milestone.