The Story of Ballard Mountain

Today it’s called Ballard Mountain, and it reaches 2,031 feet into the sky near Malibu, in Southern California. It’s named for an ex-slave turned minister, who became a homesteading blacksmith at the foot of the mountain. There apparently weren’t many Black people at the turn of the century in that area, as Ballard’s mere existence there at the mountain prompted the locals to name it Negrohead Mountain (originally, it wasn’t Negro-head, as you can probably imagine).

In 2008, Paul Culberg and Nick Noxon, two local residents, petitioned Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to change the name from a racial slur to one that properly honored John Ballard. It worked.

Two years later, Ballard’s descendants were on hand to watch a plaque unveiling honoring Ballard in recognition of the name change.

“It’s not often you get a chance to right an historical wrong,” said Yaroslavsky, whose board colleagues appealed to the U.S. Geological Survey to make the name change official.

The National Park Service released a film last week, “To Right a Wrong,” about the history of the mountain and the man its named for, as well as the fight to rename the mountain, to remove that stain from the map.

You can watch the film, below.

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