The town of Placerville in El Dorado County, a spot in the Sierra foothills that was at the center of Gold Rush madness (and crime) 170 years ago, is going to remove a conspicuous noose from its official logo.
The Placerville City Council voted unanimously in favor of removing the noose in a Zoom meeting on Tuesday, only about a year after it voted down redesigning the logo. The noose was a nod to the city's history of crime and punishment during those Gold Rush days when it was nicknamed "Hangtown," because it was the location of many hangings of convicted gold thieves. (This is also where we get the name for the classic Bay Area dish of oysters and eggs, the Hangtown Fry.)
While many residents supported removing the noose in an era of reckoning around the country in which nooses are symbolic of lynchings and racism against Black people, not everyone agreed. Many Placerville residents spoke during a public-comment session in opposition to the noose's removal, arguing that it was erasure of history — even though the current logo is only a few decades old.
"This world right now is taking inch by inch little pieces of our history and throwing it away," said one resident, quoted by CNN. "If we remove this, and the next thing you're going to do is remove 'Hangtown' name itself, in 10-15 years, our kids aren't going to know anything about it."
In the city's history presentation seen below, we learn that the original name for the area was Dry Diggins, which referred to the type of gold mining that was going on there, and then was called Hangtown after three men, two French and one Chilean, were hanged there in 1849 on suspicion of crimes. Placerville became the official name, and the city was incorporated in 1854.
The logo, created at some point in recent decades, shows a gold miner panning in a stream in the foreground, with a noose hanging from a tree in the background. Around it are the words "City of Placerville," "Old Hangtown" and "1854."
As one resident put it during Tuesday's meeting, per CNN, "A noose is a symbol of death. A noose is a symbol of lynching. A noose is a symbol of racism. I think we're better than that."
It's an ugly logo to start with, and it seems insane that anyone would want this image associated with their town — or why in 2021 they would still want to celebrate what were essentially lynchings without trial that happened more than a century and a half ago.
But, it took until now to get it removed.
Just in the past week, a student at USF was expelled for hanging a noose outside a dormitory. The student admitted to hanging the noose, but apparently said it was not directed at any particular student or group. The university said that the image itself had "caused extraordinary distress, hurt, and fear for health safety and well-being."