As protests fill the streets across America due to the killing of George Floyd, many have called for the changing of names and removal of statues deemed racist around the country. That argument is gaining momentum in Northern California, where a popular park has an outdated, and to some offensive, name.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, but an online petition could force that name to be changed in the near future.
The 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name totally offensive, not only because its located in a predominantly White neighborhood, but because this is such an out-of-date and offensive name,” reads the petition created by Jones.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.”
During it’s inception, the petition gained 1,500 signatures, but was turned down by California State Parks due to its historical significance.
“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.”
Should the name of this Folsom park be changed? https://t.co/xlq4FRNIbW— Marlei Martinez (@MarleiMartinez) June 10, 2020
In 2020, with racial tensions on the rise throughout the country, the petition has reemerged online and has now reached over 65,000 signatures, a movement the California State Parks simply can’t ignore. They were planning to hold meetings with scholars, visitors, activists and families to determine the fate of the park’s name, but they were cancelled due to Covid-19. Now, Folsom locals have created a renaming committee to push through a name change during the country’s current climate.
It is yet to be determined if and when the Negro Bar State Recreation Area will see its name changed, but if there’s a time to build off the country’s current momentum addressing racial divide, it’s now.