From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Ballard, John and Amanda [Ballard Mountain]

John (1830-1905) and Amanda Ballard (b. 1840-died before 1900) were the first African Americans to settle in the hills above Malibu in California. The site, Negrohead Mountain [a refined version of the name], was named in recognition of the Ballards early pioneering presence in the area. There was an effort underway to rename the peak Ballard Mountain.

John Ballard, a former slave from Kentucky, was a blacksmith, teamster, and firewood salesman. He was a free man when the family arrived in Los Angeles in 1859. John was able to earn enough money to purchase 320 acres near Seminole Hot Springs; the family later moved near Santa Monica.

John helped found the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles; the services were first held in 1872 in the home of co-founder Biddy Mason. Mason, like Ballard, was a former slave; she won her freedom, along with 13 others, in an 1856 California court case. Mason settled in the city of Los Angeles.

It is not known how John Ballard gained his freedom. When the Ballards moved to their mountain home, the family was sometimes harassed; their house was burnt down in an attempt to run them out of the area, but the Ballards refused to leave.

John, and Amanda, who was born in Texas, first appear in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census. The couple had seven children according to the 1870 Census, all of whom were born in California. By 1900, John Ballard was a widow, and his daughter Alice, who was a nurse, and two grandsons, were living with him.

For more see Happy Days in Southern California, by F. H. Rindge [John Ballard is not referred to by name but rather as an "old colored neighbor."]; Heads and Tails -- and Odds and Ends, by J. H. Russell; B. Pool, "Negrohead Mountain might get new name," Los Angeles Times, 2/24/2009, Domestic News section; and R. McGrath, "Santa Monica peak renamed Ballard Mountain," Ventura County Star, 10/07/2009, Local section.

For more on Biddy Mason see The Power of Place, by D. Hayden.

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Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Happy days in southern California
NKAA Source: Heads and tails -- and odds and ends
NKAA Source: The Los Angeles times (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Ventura County star (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The power of place : urban landscapes as public history

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“Ballard, John and Amanda [Ballard Mountain],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-09-29 18:01:21