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Negro Bar Sparks Debate Over History, Possible Name Change

FOLSOM (CBS13) — An online petition is calling for the state to change Negro Bar's name to a more celebratory name, honoring African Americans. The state-run recreation area has had the same name for generations, but many people say it's offensive and racially repressive.

It's not the first time someone has launched a petition to change Negro Bar's name. One opponent says changing the name means erasing part of Black history.

"I think it should have been changed a very long time ago," said one Folsom native.

Negro Bar was once located on the South bank of the American River and served as a large gold camp for African American miners during the gold rush. In fact, they were the first to discover gold in that area.

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While some find the name offensive, the Co-Chair of "Friends of Negro Bar" Michael Harris says the name isn't inappropriate at all.

"If we are talking about the gold rush era 170 years ago this year, this was Spain and then it was Mexico, people spoke Spanish and so those "Negroes" were mining gold," Harris said.

Harris says changing the name would burn a piece of African American history, and strip Black youth of an already unspoken story.

"We do not wanna tell the story of who these people were that happened to be of African ancestry, where a town was named after them, we wanna brush it to the side and say I'm offended," Harris added.

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While officials at California State Parks tell CBS13 they're aware the controversial name offends some people, a spokesman says the department wants to ensure the state's rich California culture and history remain intact.

A piece of history some would like modified, to reflect a more modern era.

"It did play a part in our history, but that part we have tried to become better from, and so keeping that name seems like something we should make a big deal of putting behind us," said the Folsom native.

State Parks said it hasn't received a formal petition requesting a name change. The current online petition has gathered close to its 5,000 signature goal.

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