FOLSOM (CBS13) — Folsom is home to a unique piece of California’s history and the recent re-examination of names, titles, and statues has made its way to the historic town.
It’s now a popular summer spot with boaters and swimmers, but Negro Bar State Park and the Gold Rush town of Folsom has a long history that pre-dates California becoming a state.
“The African founding father of California acquired title to the land in 1844 and when he died suddenly on May 18, 1848, people were rushing on his land finding gold,” Michael Harris with the National Juneteenth Organization Foundation said.
One of the west’s early groups of pioneers took advantage of the rich land.
“This site here was the first gold mining site in today’s Sacramento County and the people that were mining here on the land grant Rancho Rio De Los Americanos, were Negros,” Harris said.
Harris explained the origins of the name “Negro Bar” which was later also used as the name for the State Park. But for some, that name is concerning.
“We can’t erase history, but we need to be sensitive to people,” Folsom local Steve Angelo said.
California State Parks is now considering a name change, writing to CBS13 in part, “While African-American community leaders and historians have supported the continued use of this name in the past, California State Parks recognizes that such interpretations can change over time.”
But for historians in Folsom who understand the significance of the area, they say changing the name could affect its history.
“People came here and became a part of the great experiment of California. We just want to erase the contents of Black history because I’m offended by a sign?” Harris said.
The state says they will speak with scholars, stakeholders, and activists to make an informed decision.