Pe­ti­tion to re­name Fol­som’s Ne­gro Bar park gains trac­tion

Lodi News-Sentinel - - PAGE TWO - By Alexan­dra Yoon-Hen­dricks

A pe­ti­tion calling for Fol­som’s Ne­gro Bar Re­cre­ation Area to be re­named is gain­ing trac­tion on­line, ar­gu­ing that the cur­rent race-re­lated name is “out-of-date and of­fen­sive.”

The pe­ti­tion was ini­tially cre­ated in Septem­ber by Stock­ton res­i­dent Phae­dra Jones af­ter she saw a sign for the park while driv­ing through Fol­som. It has more than 3,800 sig­na­tures as of about 2 p.m. Wed­nes­day.

“I was so con­fused, shocked, an­gry, put­down, sad, hurt, dis­re­spected and in dis­be­lief. I couldn’t be­lieve that I had ac­tu­ally seen a sign that read ‘Ne­gro Bar,’” Jones wrote in her pe­ti­tion.

The park’s name is de­rived from the racist moniker tied to a sim­i­lar gravel bar just across the water where Black min­ers dis­cov­ered gold dur­ing the Gold Rush. Through the 1930s, the site was known and iden­ti­fied with the racist term both in news­pa­pers, and in at least one U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey from 1941, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Board of Geo­graphic Names.

“The Name Ne­gro Bar has been of­fen­sive for lit­er­ally decades. I am sure his­to­ri­ans can find the name of at least ONE African Amer­i­can Miner or Set­tler whose name can be used,” reads one com­ment from a petitioner.

“It’s of­fen­sive and un­wel­com­ing. The fact that we still haven’t changed the name re­flects poorly on our com­mu­nity,” an­other said.

Last year, the U.S. Board of Geo­graphic Names ap­proved the re­nam­ing of “Ne­gro Bill Canyon” in south­east Utah to “Wil­liam Grand­staff Canyon,” hon­or­ing the black man who ran cat­tle in the area for whom the canyon had been pe­jo­ra­tively named af­ter through the 1940s.

The Cal­i­for­nia State Parks sys­tem said in a state­ment to KCRA that the or­ga­ni­za­tion has con­sulted with a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Sacra­mento African Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal and Cul­tural So­ci­ety in the past, who said the name should not change in an ef­fort to pre­serve the his­tory of African Amer­i­cans along the river dur­ing the Gold Rush.

“The re­ten­tion of the name ‘Ne­gro Bar’ is one of the only re­minders of the African Amer­i­can pres­ence in the area,” the state­ment reads, mak­ing the name, “very his­tor­i­cally and cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant.”

Re­quests for com­ment to Cal­i­for­nia State Parks were not re­turned.

The quiet and scenic park, lo­cated on the North­ern shore of the Lake Natoma just off Amer­i­can River, is a pop­u­lar kayak­ing and pic­nick­ing spot for lo­cals. Most on­line re­views of the park make no men­tion of the name be­ing prob­lem­atic.

“The word ne­gro isn’t even al­lowed on fed­eral forms, but it’s still a name of a state park?” Jones wrote in the pe­ti­tion. “Why can’t this name be changed to some­thing like Black Bar, or pos­si­bly name it af­ter one of the men who first started min­ing there?”

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