LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is supporting a plan to change the name of 'Negrohead Mountain' in the Santa Monica Mountains near Seminole Hot Springs in honor of local black pioneer John Ballard.
Ballard was a former slave who was the first black man to settle in the hills above Malibu in the early 1860's.
will take the first step toward what they consider a more fitting tribute by
renaming the 2,031-foot volcanic peak Ballard Mountain.
At the request of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the board will send a formal proposal to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to have the name changed to Ballard Mountain.
Yaroslavsky said the renaming the 2,031-foot mountain would "honor the man, as a man."
After marrying his wife, Amanda, in Kentucky in 1859, Ballard moved to Los Angeles to join the growing black community that had fled the South looking for freedom and opportunity in the West.
At the time, there were about 4,000 residents in Los Angeles, including about 60 blacks, according to Yaroslavsky's office.
Ballard helped found the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles around 1869, eventually leaving the city after his wife died and his subsequent remarriage.
Under the Homestead Act, Ballard and his daughter applied for land in the Seminole Hot Springs area and received about 160 acres each in 1900. Ballard died soon after.
"John Ballard is a pioneer," said Moorpark College history professor Patty Colman, adding that he may have been the only black homesteader in the Santa Monica Mountains.
"Black history is all of our history," Colman said.
The original name of the mountain -- the tallest in the region -- contained a racial slur in place of Negro but was changed due to federal civil rights legislation in the 1960s, Bellman said.
"It really was slander of a courageous and remarkable guy," said Nicholas Nixon, an area resident who has worked to get the name changed.
The goal of changing the name again is to directly honor Ballard and his family's contribution to the area, Yaroslavsky said.