A Mountain by Any Other Name

Malibu peak renamed in honor of former slave

The 2,031-foot peak that stands between Malibu and Agoura has undergone a name change in an effort to correct a century-plus wrong.

Formerly known as Negrohead Mountain, the Santa Monica Mountain peak has been renamed Ballard Mountain in honor of John Ballard, an African-American homesteader who was an early pioneer in the area after moving out from Los Angeles.

Ballard’s stature in the area led early residents to refer to the volcanic peak as "Negrohead Mountain," a refinement of its original name from the '60s based on the "N-word."

After more than 120 years, two local residents launched a campaign to revise the very politically incorrect name in favor of settler John Ballard. The cause was taken up last year by LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the area’s representative.

Saturday, Feb. 20, saw some 25 of Ballard’s descendants in attendance as a replica of the bronze plaque commemorating the name change was unveiled in Seminole Springs, near Ballard’s onetime homestead.

One of the pioneer’s great-grandsons, Reggie Ballard, told the LA Times he was happy to see the name changed.

"I don't know what it means to Los Angeles as a whole, but it means a lot to me," said the retired Los Angeles Fire Department captain who lives in Banning.

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