A day-use area on the shores Lake Natoma just east of Sacramento has a name that’s hard to say out loud. The recreation area is the historic site of an African American mining site during the Gold Rush. Now, California officials are considering changing its name.
Negro Bar was founded by a group of African Americans in the 1849 as a small mining settlement and became one of the larger gold camps along the American River. Today, it sits as the popular Negro Bar State Recreation Area in Folsom.
The California State Park and Recreation Commission is holding a public forum on Friday to discuss the possible changing of the name of Negro Bar, citing it as an outdated, derogatory term.
“Those in support of change, naming ‘Negro’ as a dated, derogatory term, and others in opposition, concerned with the potential loss of recognition the name provides to African American presence and participation in the California Gold Rush in this Area,” the commission’s discussion item says.
The recreation area’s name has been a hot topic for locals for decades. In 1999, California State Parks considered changing its name, but ultimately decided against it. Then in 2018, against the backdrop of the George Floyd protests, an online petition to change the park’s name was created in 2018 by Phaedra Jones, an African American woman from Stockton.
“I find this name totally offensive, not only because its located in a predominantly White neighborhood, but because this is such an out-of-date and offensive name,” reads the petition created by Jones. “This park is so beautiful and many people enjoy it. I just hate that this park that was meant to honor African American miners, still has to be called offensive name.”
Opposition of the name change sites its historical significance as an African American settlement during the Gold Rush.
“Many feel that a name change would reduce the cultural significance and important contribution that African Americans made in the region,” the California State Parks said in a 2018 statement. “While the Department of Parks and Recreation is very sensitive to the perception of unit names within our state parks, we are also very careful to insure that our rich California culture and history remain intact.”
Name changes have been a hot topic in California State Parks in recent years. The popular Patrick’s Point State Park in Humboldt County was recently changed to Sue-meg State Park to honor the Yurok Tribe, which has called that region their home for thousands of years. In 2021, Squaw Valley was renamed Palisades Tahoe to eliminate the word deemed sexist and racist towards Native American women. Palisades’ new logo portrays an eagle, which pays homage to the Washoe Tribe.
Do you think they should rename Negro Bar State Recreation Area? Let us know in the comments.