Calif.'s Negrohead Mountain Renamed for Pioneer

Published February 22, 2010

LOS ANGELES – 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.

The U.S. Geological Survey's Board on Geographic Names approved the change last year after a request from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

"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.

A permanent plaque with Ballard's name and story is being placed near the top of the peak.

Ballard was part of a small group that founded Los Angeles' African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1869 but left Los Angeles for the mountains 50 miles away a decade later.

Historians believe that Ballard and his family were fleeing growing segregationist polices in the city.

Written by Associated Press

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