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From Niggerhead to Negrohead to Ballard, a Mountain Finally Gets A Decent Name

John Ballard

A Southern California mountain that was once named Niggerhead, then Negrohead has just been renamed Ballard Mountain in honor of its first African-American settler
, John Ballard.

The fight for the renaming of the controversially named mountain began back in 2005, when Morehouse College history professor Patricia Colman, who had worked for the National Park Service previously, began to research the mountain's history. Professor Colman discovered that Ballard came to Los Angeles in the 1850s and he and his family were the first and only African Americans to have lived in the mountain area during this time.

The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed Ballard, a former slave, to claim the undeveloped land. The 2,031-foot mountain and surrounding land near Mailbu became Niggerhead mountain, when white settlers named the land.

Ballard and his wife, Amanda, were pillars of the Black community in the 19th century and helped to build Los Angeles. Ballard was also a trustee and one of the founding members of the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in L.A.

The mountain's name remained unchanged until the 1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson changed the racial slur to Negrohead.

The U.S. Geographical Survey approved the change last year, after a request from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Thanks to Professor Colman's push, the peak was formally dedicated this past Saturday at a ceremony in Agoura Hills, Calif. Guests included Ballard's descendants and the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Marcia McNutt.

Ryan Ballard, Reginald Ballard Sr.'s youngest child and the great-great-grandson of John Ballard, has not hiked up the mountain yet. "You know the plan is already underway," he said.

Ballard lived on his claim until his death in 1905.

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