Written by: Mahnoor Rahman
As my internship is finishing this week, I wanted to write about the final project I had the opportunity to help plan and coordinate. Within the last two weekends of my service, we were having an excavation of a historical site. The Site was home to Alice Ballard an African American female homesteader. Being a person of color myself this site felt extremely important. Understanding that the woman who owned it was not only a woman but a black woman owning a large acreage in Jim Crow America is extraordinary to unearth.
While the site has just recently been excavated by us at NPS in coordination with California State University, Northridge, Alice Ballard’s History has been studied by a Moorpark College professor who has outlined her history. What we know so far is that Alice was the youngest of her family from two former slaves. She ended up receiving a homestead patent in 1888 and resided as well as worked the land till 1903. After a fire ravaged the area Alice sold her property for 10 dollars and moved out of the Santa Monica Mountains. Her family still resides in Los Angels County today.
While the historical side can be documented by archives and old maps the archaeological evidence needs to be uncovered. Therefore our excavation was being staged. After the Woolsey fire in 2018 a large swath of land was uncovered and was seen to may have been her original home. When old maps that had her home marked were laid on top of satellite imagery it was near the original burn site. This has led to us excavating the area in the hopes to build some chronology and evidence for Alice Ballard’s home.