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Army Corps releases documents about racial slur on grave markers

6:07 PM, May 4, 2011   |    comments
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EL DORADO HILLS, CA - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released numerous documents that contain a racial slur referring to African-American pioneers.

The "N-word" was etched on their graves in 1954.

"What we have here is the grave marker of one of 36 human beings who were relocated to Folsom Lake, which was created by Folsom Dam," founder of the Mormon Island Cemetery Project Michael Harris said.

For 10 years, Harris has led the fight to get the slur taken off of the grave markers. The bodies were moved from Negro Hill Cemetery to Mormon Island Relocation Cemetery off Green Valley Road by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Corps spokeswoman DeDe Cordell tracked down documents regarding the transfer. 

"Very surprised, embarrassed and ashamed," Cordell said. "We all had the same reaction. You've got to be kidding me."

The papers included pictures of the Negro Hill Cemetery and the new resting places for the bodies. 

"We found a stack of files and every single reference in every single record refers to the cemetery by the slur and not Negro Hill," Cordell explained. "We have absolutely no way of knowing why."

Contracts for the relocation project also contain a quit deed transferring control of the cemetery to El Dorado County. Cordell said it would be difficult for the corps to get involved. 

"We can't do anything without and authorization and appropriation from Congress," Cordell said. "That process would take a long time."

Preliminary estimates show it could cost $30,000 to remove the slur.

Activists are trying to bury the past with the support of local Corps employees. 

"I got the same reaction from everyone," Cordell said. "What can we do? We'll roll up our sleeves. We'll even get out there and shovel or whatever it requires."

By Karen Massie,


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