NPS Celebrates Black History Month by Highlighting the Story of the Ballard Family, the First African American Family to Settle in Santa Monica Mountains

New film released titled “To Right a Wrong: The Story of Ballard Mountain”

The Santa Monica Mountains were not always welcoming to people of color. In fact, there was a mountain here with a racial slur as its name. Finally, in 2010, it was renamed Ballard Mountain. In celebration of Black History Month, the National Park Service (NPS) is bringing attention to the story of the Ballard family, the first African American family to settle in the Santa Monica Mountains. 

John Ballard, a Black man from Kentucky, arrived in Los Angeles in 1859. He became active in civic affairs and was one of the founding members of the city’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church.   

In 1880, Ballard picked up his family and moved about 50 miles west to the Santa Monica Mountains. He purchased 160 acres of land, and the family raised some livestock and a few crops. Ballard collected firewood and sold it in the city.  

Ballard was described as an intelligent and literate man. He distinguished himself as an extraordinary individual who worked hard and persevered, despite attempts by others to drive him off his land.  

Despite his accomplishments, Ballard was mistreated by other pioneers due to the color of his skin. Thieves unsuccessfully tried to chase Ballard from his home. His cabin was set on fire twice, but he was not easily deterred. He rebuilt his home both times. 

Years later, one of his seven children, Alice Ballard, became a homesteader herself, an unusual feat for any woman, much more a woman of color. She claimed an adjoining lot, and another 160 acres was added to the Ballard family land.  She eventually married and moved to Los Angeles.

The Ballard homesteads included a 2,031-foot peak that stands in the mountains just south of today’s cities of Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills. Due to John and Alice’s presence on the land, the peak unfortunately came to be known as “N-wordhead Mountain.” It is unclear where or when this started, but the name appears on early maps of the area.  

John Ballard died in 1905 when he was about 75 years old.  

The Ballard family continued to distinguish themselves in the Los Angeles area over the decades. Claudius, John Ballard’s grandson, was a Berkeley-educated doctor who fought during World War I. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French for his bravery.  

Both of Claudius’ sons, Albert “Lucky” and Reggie, fought in World War II. Reggie was a Tuskegee airman and after the war he helped desegregate the Los Angeles City Fire Department. He and his wife Margaret had six children, many of whom continue to live and serve their communities in the Los Angeles area.

In 2010, the mountain known as a racial slur was renamed Ballard Mountain in honor of John Ballard. A 13-minute documentary film, released in February 2022, called To Right a Wrong: The Story of Ballard Mountain documents the renaming effort. It also chronicles the inspirational resiliency of the Ballard family who overcame incredible hardships.   

“So often people will give attention to something because it’s media worthy, but this was something that a group of folks thought was worthwhile,” said great, great-grandson Ryan Ballard referring to the renaming effort.

Ryan’s father, 96-year-old Reggie Ballard, was also extensively interviewed for the film.  To view the film, visit https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=F8C0B76E-2BFC-462B-9735-CBFC6233D2E3 

Local historian and Moorpark College history professor Patty Colman and residents Paul and Leah Culberg were instrumental in making the name change happen. They chronicle their recollections in the film along with SMMNRA park superintendent David Szymanski.    

“Ballard Mountain is the untold story of an African American family’s experiences in the Santa Monica Mountains and the City of Los Angeles,” Szymanski said. “It is important because it reminds us of the unrecognized people who passed our cities and parks down to us.” 

The Santa Monica Mountains Fund and the National Park Service provided funding for the project. Darius Dawson directed and filmed the video, and Austin Rourke edited it. Both filmmakers are alums of the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.  

The film was written and narrated by Ana Beatriz Cholo, the public affairs officer for SMMNRA. Additional photography was provided by Kayla McCraren, the park’s visual information specialist.

in News
Related Posts

Marina del Rey Sportfishing: A Great Day on the Water

June 14, 2024

June 14, 2024

Fishing is a pastime like no other. You can experience the nostalgia of that pastime in real time at Marina...

Fatal Altercation Outside Santa Monica Pub Leads to Homicide Charge

June 14, 2024

June 14, 2024

Venice Resident Charged in Death of Jameson’s Pub Manager A man has been charged with homicide following a fatal altercation...

Laurene Powell Jobs Adds Another Malibu Pad to her Paradise Cove Portfolio

June 13, 2024

June 13, 2024

This Acquisition Marks Powell Jobs’ Fourth Property in the Upscale Enclave, Adding to Three Adjacent Parcels She Has Acquired Over...

Former HR Chief of Santa Monica Accuses City of Racial Discrimination

June 13, 2024

June 13, 2024

She Was Selected in 2018 as the First African American to Hold That Position Within City Leadership, According to the...

Juneteenth Art Exhibition Set for Abbot Kinney Boulevard

June 13, 2024

June 13, 2024

The Event Features Works by Twelve Prominent Black Artists From Los Angeles An art exhibition titled “FREEDOM” will open at...

Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger Cut Price on Palisades Home by $6.5M

June 12, 2024

June 12, 2024

The couple purchased the property in June 2018 for $15.6 million and extensively remodeled it While actor Chris Pratt’s box-office...

Hang-Ten Therapeutics-Surf Therapy for Kids: Catching Waves and Finding your Calm

June 12, 2024

June 12, 2024

A different type of therapy is making waves in Los Angeles. Hang-Ten Therapeutics, founded by Naomi Matanick, a licensed pediatric...

Jinky’s Cafe is Returning to Santa Monica

June 12, 2024

June 12, 2024

The Development Comes After Months After the Franchise Closed Its Previous Santa Monica Storefront By Zach Armstrong Several months after The Independence,...

Venice Canal Attack Suspect Appears in Court

June 12, 2024

June 12, 2024

He faces a lifetime prison sentence without the possibility of parole By Zach Armstrong The man who allegedly raped and...

Lawsuit Filed Over Pacific Palisades Property Foreclosure: Report

June 11, 2024

June 11, 2024

The Dispute Over the Site Dates Back to 2014 The owners of a Pacific Palisades residential site are fighting to...

Shutters on the Beach Brings Beachside Spring Celebrations 

June 11, 2024

June 11, 2024

As spring unfurls with super blooms and sunsets after 7pm along the California coast, Shutters on the Beach emerges as the most...

Hotel Casa Del Mar: The Epicenter of Springtime Diversions

June 11, 2024

June 11, 2024

Hotel Casa Del Mar stands as a beacon of vibrant coastal charm on Santa Monica Beach. Perfectly poised, the hotel’s...

New Digital Art Festival to Launch This Month in Santa Monica

June 10, 2024

June 10, 2024

The New Series Will Take Place Across 24 Events at 17 Different Venues The DNA Festival Santa Monica, a new...

Candlelight Vigil to Be Held for Venice Canal Attack Victim

June 10, 2024

June 10, 2024

Candles Will Be Provided for All to Participate in the Tribute By Zach Armstrong A candlelight vigil for Sarah Alden, the...

Gladstone’s Unveils New Summer Menu and Cocktail Offerings

June 10, 2024

June 10, 2024

This Comes Several Months After the Restaurant’s Staff Joined Forces for a New Type of Ownership The historic beachside restaurant...