Calif.’s Negrohead Mountain Renamed for Pioneer

Seattle Post Intelligencer, February 20, 2010

A peak previously known as Negrohead Mountain in Southern California’s Santa Monica range was officially renamed Saturday in honor of a black pioneer who settled the area in the 19th Century.

The 2,031-foot mountain near Malibu, the highest peak in the area, became Ballard Mountain after John Ballard, a blacksmith and former slave who bought land on the mountain in 1880.

The name originally contained a vulgar racial slur that even appeared on federal maps, but it was changed to “negro” in the 1960s.

About 90 people including some two dozen Ballard descendants attended the renaming ceremony Saturday at the site where Ballard owned a 320-acre homestead near what is now the community of Seminole Hot Springs.

“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, told the Los Angeles Times.

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“It’s not often you get a chance to right an historical wrong,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who made the name-change motion, said at the ceremony Saturday.

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