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Negro mining history sought

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In response to your articles about the relocated graves from Negro Hill (Feb. 23, March 2 Telegraph), I would like to suggest that this is an opportunity for us to learn more about the early African-American miners in the Folsom area during the California Gold Rush as well as the circumstances surrounding these graves being moved during the construction of Folsom Dam. People often forget that the Gold Rush started 12 years before the Civil War. Historic place names and pejorative epithets throughout the gold region are witness both to the presence of black miners and reminders of the hostile environment within which these miners worked. The miners included fugitive slaves and free men of color working side by side. California was admitted to the union (the United States) as a free state, but a fugitive slave law was enacted in 1852 by the California legislature that allowed for the seizure and return of any person alleged to be a fugitive before admission. The earliest African-American miners stayed on the move, and little is known of them. I’ve always hoped there might be descendants who have diaries or oral histories from that era that could give us clues to what life was like for them. It is also interesting to consider that the graves from Negro Hill, Mormon Island and Salmon Falls were moved in 1954. That happens to have been the same year as the US Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education that forced the end of segregated schools. How did people in Folsom react to that decision? Did that influence the decision to change the names to Negro Bar and Negro Hill because previous names were now considered offensive? Was that a consideration when the grave markers were placed on the relocated graves? There may be people still living today who would remember how that happened. To pursue both of these stories further, I would like to put a call out to anyone who may be a descendant of these early settlers or has personal memories from the time when the graves were relocated. Do you have any documentation or family stories you can share? If so, please contact the Folsom Historical Society at folsomhistorymuseum.org or (916) 985-2707. Jeff Ferreira-Pro, Vice President, Folsom Historical Society