LA Considers Name Change for Negrohead Mountain

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors threw its support Tuesday behind a plan to rename Negrohead Mountain near Seminole Hot Springs in honor of local black pioneer John Ballard.

At the request of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the board will send a formal proposal to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to have the name changed to Ballard Mountain.

Yaroslavsky said the renaming the 2,031-foot mountain would "honor the man, as a man."

The mountain is thought to have derived its name from Ballard, an early settler in the region.

"It's not like we're just sort of superimposing our history on that site," said Yaroslavsky spokesman Joel Bellman, who called the mountain's current name "dated."

After marrying his wife, Amanda, in Kentucky in 1859, Ballard moved to Los Angeles to join the growing black community that had fled the South looking for freedom and opportunity in the West. At the time, there were about 4,000 residents in Los Angeles, including about 60 blacks, according to Yaroslavsky's office.

Ballard helped found the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles around 1869, eventually leaving the city after his wife died and his subsequent remarriage.

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Under the Homestead Act, Ballard and his daughter applied for land in the Seminole Hot Springs area and received about 160 acres each in 1900. Ballard died soon after.

"John Ballard is a pioneer," said Moorpark College history professor Patty Colman, adding that he may have been the only black homesteader in the Santa Monica Mountains.

"Black history is all of our history," Colman said.

The original name of the mountain -- the tallest in the region -- contained a racial slur in place of Negro but was changed due to federal civil rights legislation in the 1960s, Bellman said.

"It really was slander of a courageous and remarkable guy," said Nicholas Nixon, an area resident who has worked to get the name changed.

The goal of changing the name again is to directly honor Ballard and his family's contribution to the area, Yaroslavsky said.

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