A peak formerly known as “Negrohead Mountain” was recently officially renamed “Ballard Mountain,” for John Ballard, a former slave from Kentucky who lived nearby.
“I’m pleased to see the right thing done by the powers that be,” said Ballard’s great-grandson, Reggie Ballard. “Our family is overwhelmed with excitement,” he added.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names approved the change last year, after a request from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. This request was a result of lobbying from local residents who live just below the 2,031-foot peak in the Santa Monica Mountains. Ballard said he was shocked to find that the lobbyists were White.
“They were just as excited as anyone else, “Ballard remarked, adding that one of the participants couldn’t contain himself. “He told me that this was the best thing to ever happen to him . . . imagine that.”
Of course, sentiments haven’t always been this way. Moorpark College history professor, Patty Colman, recently published research revealing that White locals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had used “Negrohead” to insult Ballard (John), who moved into the area, after initially settling in Los Angeles where he co-founded the city’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Historians believe that Ballard and his family were fleeing growing segregationist polices when they re-settled at the base of the mass on a 160-acre homestead near what is now, Seminole Hot Springs.
Many people, including several of Ballard’s descendants, attended the renaming ceremony at this site. A permanent plaque with Ballard’s name and story is expected to be placed near the top of the peak.