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Historic California State Park Negro Bar Could Be Renamed, But People Are Upset
Using the word “Negro” in the park name, Negro Bar, has sparked a debate in a California town about whether it’s okay to use offensive language that should only be spoken when describing history and for historical context.
For residents of Folsom, California, and for visitors of Negro Bar, the word should be acceptable for the name of the popular state park. The park’s name has generated so much criticism that a citizen’s group has asked for a name change.
History of the Name
The origins of the park’s name go back to the Gold Rush days of California. For many Black people at the time, they were drawn to California’s potential, as it became a place where Black men could reportedly buy their freedom and purchase land with the gold they had mined.
“This place is the last place that’s recognizable in the context of the Gold Rush era that [Black] people were here,” Michael Harris, a board member of the Sacramento Historical Society, told the Sacramento Bee. “They want to feel good in the 21st century, and completely disrespect the legacy of people of African descent.”
The area where Negro Bar is located was once outlined in a map that dates back to the 1850s with black squares, noting that Negro Bar was located “just under the river.” That’s because that area on the map was identified with the n-word until the 1960s when the federal government ordered the occurrences of the n-word to “negro” for parks and sites nationwide.
Historians say the demographics in Sacramento changed in the 1800s when the mining communities along the river saw a growing number of Black prospects both free and enslaved.
“The historical name of Negro Bar, here in Folsom, I believe, is very important to keep because it is based on a township that existed in this area of Folsom, and the residents have a really historical treasure,” said Angela DeShields, a visitor of Negro Bar.
But for Conscious Cultural Connections, or C3, a coalition of individuals that explore anti-Black racism who are advocating to rename the park, they say the name wouldn’t be offensive if the town was majority Black.
“This park is called Negro bar, it’s representative of the African American community, and while I can empathize with people not wanting to change the name, the African American community is not represented within this town,” said C3 co-founder Jen Johnson. “Therefore, it’s not appropriate to have a term like ‘Negro’ spewed across the entire town.”
The Black population in Folsom is currently only 3% of its more than 2,600 residents, compared to the white population that’s 70%
The California Department of Parks and Recreation will have the final say on whether the name changes.