African Ancestry in California
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  • More about Queen Califia

    Califia's life and land "at the right hand of the Indies" were described in a novel written about 1510, by Garcia Ordonez Rodriguez de Montalvo, a Spanish writer, and was entitled "Las Serges des Esplandian". To some extent, this document helped to precipitate the Spanish hunt for gold in North America. In fact, thirty years later, when the explorer Cortes landed with his crew in what is known today as Baja California, it is said that he announced to his men (of which 300 were of African descent) that they had arrived in Califia's land. By 1770, the entire Pacific coast controlled by Spain had been given the name California, and the Spanish speaking people who lived there were called Californios. A portion of the original of this document was translated by Edward Everett Hale for The Antiquarian Society, and the story was printed in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1864.

    The best known depictions of Queen Califia are murals done by well known artists. One seven foot high panel showing Califia as a Black woman with her Amazons is in The Room of the Dons at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco, and was created for the opening of the hotel in 1926, by Maynard Dixon and Frank Von Sloun. Another famous depiction, created by Louise Lloyd and entitled "The Naming of California", can be seen in Sacramento in the Senate Rules Committee Hearing Chamber on the 4th floor of the State Building.

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    Changing of Race in the Melting Pot

    It is interesting to note that, beginning in 1781, a document called a "cedula" could be purchased which would officially change one's racial designation. Many such records can be found at the Bancroft Library in San Francisco and at other California libraries, museums and historical societies. In addition, although Old Mexico had previously used a variety of terms to describe blood quantum similar to Louisiana's methods, once a couple reached California to the north, any of their children born there were automatically classified as Spanish if one parent was Spanish.

    For all practical purposes, early California could truly be described as a melting pot. Most people of African descent from 1816-1840 were absorbed into the mix, so that there were few if any real "Negro communities" prior to the Gold Rush. By 1848, the Californio was often tri-racial (Indian, Spanish and African), and included many immigrant bloodlines. The lower economic classes of Californios gradually became more Indian, partly due to intermarriage with California Indians. The upper classes of Californios often "married light", to European-born Spaniards when possible, or to other European or American whites.

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    The four Presidios were founded at the same time as the Missions of the same names, and were intended to protect any colonizers and several Missions nearby. Each fort had 8 brass cannons, and while they could not resist a sustained attack by sea, they were strong enough to protect the settlers from any hostile Indians or other attack by land. As would be expected, settlers began to move nearer to the Presidios for protection, to the point that eventually they were actually given the title “Presidio-Pueblo”.

    San Diego - 1769 - chosen for its nearness to Old Mexico
    Monterey - 1770 - became the site of the first capital of Upper California
    San Francisco - 1776 - northernmost position gave protection of the northern coastline
    Santa Barbara - 1782 - filled the gap between San Diego and Monterey in an area that was vulnerable to Indian attack

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    The four Pueblos were established as farming communities in fertile valleys. The original hope was that they would be able to furnish the Presidios with grain and other staples, so that Mexico would not have to continue to ship them by sea. The Pueblos were divided into house lots, farm lots, lands to be rented, lands to be held in common, and pastures. There was to be food and pay for settlers, distributions of house lots, farming lots and animals, common use of water and firewood, and the settlers would not have to pay taxes for five years after their arrival.

    San Jose - San Jose was the first Pueblo to be established, and was located on the Guadalupe River in 1777, not far from San Francisco. The first settlers were 14 men recruited from the Presidios at Monterey and San Francisco, and their families. The small town grew very slowly at first, and the Mission there was not established until almost twenty years later.

    Los Angeles - The area that became the second Pueblo was discovered in 1769, during the development of the trail between San Diego and San Francisco. Described in the notes of the priests and soldiers as “a delightful place”, it was “by a river" which they named El Rio de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula (the River of Our Lady Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula). They experienced three earthquakes during their stay, but still they noted the possibilities for a settlement in their report. Twelve years later, El Pueblo was founded as the city with the long name that has been shortened around the world to "LA".

    Most members of the 11 founding families came from Sinaloa, Mexico, where a third of the population had some degree of African ancestry. Of these 11 men, 11 women and 22 children, 26 persons were of African ancestry, two were Caucasian, and the remainder were either Indians or Indian/Caucasian (Mestizos). Between 1781 and 1790, eight of the original settlers of African ancestry had been officially re-classified as "Espanol", and some of the Indians had been re-classified as "Mestizos". The whitening of the founders had begun. By 1860, one of the few reminders of LA’s Black History was a street downtown called Calle de los Negros, where saloons and gambling dens were found.

    El Pueblo State Historic Park, the grounds of the Pueblo, is located in downtown Los Angeles, and consists of 43 acres just north of the Hollywood Freeway. It is now bordered by Chinatown and Union Station. It has a number of historic landmarks which can be toured, such as the oldest existing residence (1818), the oldest church (1822), and the oldest street (Olvera Street), which is now a marketplace for tourists. The present Plaza was built in 1815 and is a short distance from the original, which had to be moved because of floods.

    Branciforte - Founded in 1797, the third Pueblo was located near the Mission of Santa Cruz, and it did not fare well after its lands were merged with theirs during the secularization of the Missions in the 1830s. The original intent was to use retired soldiers as the settlers there, but since none wanted to move to that area, a group of 40 petty criminals was sent there instead. By 1905, Branciforte’s lands had been completely annexed to those of the town of Santa Cruz.

    Sonoma - The first Pueblo to be settled north of San Francisco, it was founded during the Mexican Republic era, in 1835. General Mariano Vallejo, who had been the commander of the Presidio at San Francisco, was given the new responsibility of colonizing the northern frontier by the governor. Taking over the Mission there, he freed its Indian workers and distributed the Mission’s lands.

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    Mission Sites

    All of the Mission locations were carefully chosen for their good land, the availability of water, accessibility, and nearness to native population centers. They eventually encompassed most of the coastal region from San Diego to Sonoma, north of San Francisco. Founded by priests of the Roman Catholic Church, the Missions resembled small Spanish villages. The church was the main building, and also served as a fort for the villagers during attack. There were separate houses for the priests, soldiers, married people, single males, and unmarried females, as well as barns and other farm buildings. Mission lands for farming and the grazing of animals usually extended from border to border between the Missions. As their number increased, the intent was for travelers (or soldiers) to be able to walk from the safety of one Mission to the next, along El Camino Real (The Royal Road) in about one day's time. In all there were 21 Missions built between 1769 and 1823.

    At their peak, the Missions were very productive. They held over 400,000 cattle, 60,000 horses, 300,000 sheep, goats and pigs, and produced at least 120,000 bushels of various grains such as wheat, maize and beans. They also produced wine from their vineyards, brandy from their orchards, soap, leather, hides, wool, oil, cotton, hemp, linen, tobacco, salt and soda. Their annual worth for Spain was about two million dollars.

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    While numerous Ranchos undoubtedly belonged to people of Black ancestry at some time in the past, the following are known to have been owned by those of African-American descent:

    The Pico Family: This family, for whom Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles is named, is probably the most famous. The sons of Los Angeles founder Santiago de la Cruz Pico, a mestizo, and his mulatto wife Maria de la Bastida, acquired the first Rancho in what is now Ventura County. The Pico brothers owned a number of large Ranchos, including Rancho Jamul in San Diego, San Onofre (the nuclear plant) and Rancho Santa Margarita (which became Camp Pendleton), Los Coyotes and Rancho Paso de Bartolo Viejo (a large portion of the City of Whittier), and half of the San Fernando Valley. An uncle, Jose Dolores Pico, owned a Rancho in Salinas. In 1845, a grandson, Pio Pico, became Governor of California.

    Manuel Nieto: The mulatto son of a Black man and a Spanish woman, he owned Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos for a total of 167,000 acres of grazing land, southeast of Los Angeles. Rancho Los Cerritos encompassed the land that is now known as the City of Long Beach.

    Francisco Reyes: A mulatto, he owned Rancho San Fernando, which formed a large portion of the (now) San Fernando Valley. In the 1790s he sold it, and later became the mayor of Los Angeles.

    Jose Bartolome Tapia: The son of Felipe Tapia, a mulatto, and Juana Cardenas, a mestiza, he owned Rancho Malibu.

    Tiberio Tapia: Grandson of a Black man and a mestiza, he owned Rancho Cucamonga near Los Angeles, and served 3 times as mayor of Los Angeles.

    Maria Rita Valdez: Her Black grandparents (Luis Quintero) were among the founders of Los Angeles, and she owned Rancho Rodeo de Las Aguas, now known as Beverly Hills.

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    Gold Rush

    Slave owners who tried to use their slaves to mine gold for them often had problems. One of the "laws" in prospecting was that the gold belonged to the man who discovered it. The miners felt that having your slaves find gold for you violated this "law", and often forced slave owners out of the area. Many slave owners prospected in isolated areas or put ads in newspapers trying to sell their slaves; others allowed their slaves to buy themselves with their profits. Howard Barnes, a slave of the Boggs family from Missouri, is said to have sold pies at $1.00 each to pay for his freedom on the installment plan.

    Two Black men are known to have delivered mail for the miners by Pony Express during this time: William Robinson carried the mail from Stockton to the miners, and George Monroe carried the mail between Merced and Mariposa. Monroe later became a stage driver, and was chosen to drive President Ulysses Grant to Yosemite, where an area called Monroe Meadows was named in his honor.

    Recreation was rowdy, especially if the settlement was not near a big town where casino gambling and dance hall girls were available. The camps had bull fights, cock fights, dog fights, bear fights, foot races, billiards, bowling, boxing and wrestling (with nose biting and ear gouging allowed), and plenty of carefree betting on the winner. Surprisingly, many camps also had chess clubs, and often played against other camps by mail. Sometimes they had dances, and designated which men would be "girls" during the party by pinning a patch of colored cloth to their sleeve.

    The people who fared the best during the Gold Rush Era were not the miners, but those who worked at other trades. Someone had to provide supplies and services to the miners, such as tools, haircuts, food items, cooks, rooms, baths, laundry service, and entertainment. Many of these were African-American entrepreneurs, especially barbers and cooks. Fortunes could be made, and often were. Prices that could be charged were often unbelievable: eggs $1.00 each, potatoes $.50 each, bread $1.00 per slice, shovels $10-20.00 each, a blanket $100.00, a butcher knife $30.00, a tin pan for gold washing $30.00. Although not begun by African-Americans, several current-day familiar name brands got their start then.

    By the mid-1850s, hydraulic equipment had been brought in and mining became big business, so sophisticated that the ‘49ers were put out of business. As they moved away to try their luck at the gold fields in other States, many of the camps became ghost towns. Many former miners did stay, and became shop keepers, businessmen and farmers. By 1860, agriculture was the largest industry in the area.

    Name Brands and Familiar Names From the Gold Rush Era

    Levi Strauss - Strauss noticed that the gold nuggets tore through the miners' pockets. He had brought canvas fabric to sell to the miners for use as tents. Instead, he made trousers out of the fabric and sold those. Everyone still wears his Levi's jeans.

    John Studebaker - Known as "Wheelbarrow Johnny", he repaired wagons and made wheelbarrows for the miners. He later went home to South Bend, Indiana, where he made wagons, and then went into the auto making business.

    Phillip Armour - He earned money by digging ditches until he could afford to buy a butcher shop. Then he sold meat to the miners. Later he went to Chicago and opened a meat packing plant.

    Domenico Ghirardelli - An unsuccessful miner, he then opened several stores, but lost them to fires. He had learned the confectionery business in his youth in Italy, and started over for the third time by selling candy. He was finally able to build a large candy factory, from which to ship his chocolates throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Mmmmmm goodie!

    Andrew Smith Hallidie - An unsuccessful miner (who was already an inventor and engineer), he recognized a need for, and set to work designing and creating "ropes" made out of wire, for raising and lowering containers of ore and rock, and for building suspension bridges. Later he realized that city street cars could be moved with underground cables made of similar material, and created San Francisco's cable car system. He profited from the royalties when other cities used his inventions.

    Mark Hopkins - An unsuccessful miner, he grew vegetables and sold them off a wagon. He parlayed this into a grocery business, and teamed up with Collis Huntington supplying merchandise of all kinds to the miners. He used his profits to help found the Union Pacific Rail Road and became its Treasurer.

    Collis Huntington - He became prosperous as a peddler before coming to California, where he opened a store dealing in miner's supplies. When he joined up with Mark Hopkins, their store became one of the best known in the entire State. He used his profits to help found the Union Pacific Rail Road and extended its lines for continuous rail service from San Francisco to Newport News, Virginia. He is also known to have made large contributions to Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes. His art collection was left to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

    Leland Stanford - A lawyer before moving to California, he sold mining supplies and other merchandise to the miners after his arrival. He became active in politics, and was governor of the state from 1861-1863. He used his political influence to obtain state financing and land grants for the transcontinental railroad, and became its president. When their son died at age15, Stanford and his wife founded and financed Stanford University in his memory. Later he became a U.S. Senator.

    Charles Crocker - Forced to leave school at an early age to help support his family, he worked at an assortment of occupations. He came to California to prospect gold, but quickly abandoned that to open a store. He soon became a wealthy merchant, entered politics, and used his profits in the founding the Union Pacific Rail Road. He was in charge of construction, equipment, accounting, and the importing of the Chinese workers. He set up the Chinese "coolie" system, and drove them so hard that the project was completed 7 years ahead of the government's deadline. Later he was involved in real estate and banking, and his bank was the ancestor of the Crocker National Bank.

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    Black Mining Camps

    Among the earliest Black Miners were sailors who jumped ship from Massachusetts whaling ships. Being used to foreign places and hard work, and having a degree of independence from long voyages, they did well as miners. When reports of their success began to appear in Eastern antislavery journals, other Blacks were probably encouraged to join the Gold Rush.

    In 1848, at the start of the Gold Rush Era, there were only a few dozen African Americans who were documented as living in all of California. Within 4 years, their population had increased to more than 2,000 with more than half involved in gold rush-related activities.

    It has been said that Black miners preferred integrated settings, and prospected most often with Chinese, Latin American and European miners, or miners who had come from New England. Many of the photographs that show Black miners depict them in integrated settings, and in some areas mining camps were also named for them. On old California maps, there are at least 30 mining camps in which either the word “Negro”, “Nigger”, or “los Negros” is used as part of the name of the camp. Black miners are known to have worked in the following settlements:

    Negro Bar – settled on the American River in 1849, it was later called Mormon Bar; now a part of the City of Folsom [permanent].

    Negro Slide – situated in Plumas county on a mountainside, between Goodyear Bar and St. Joe’s Bar

    Negro Tent – originally a tent where food and tools could be purchased from Black miners, it was situated on a ridge between Camptonville and Goodyear; eventually expanded and became a hotel and restaurant

    Negro Hill - situated near Sacramento on the Mokelumne River; one Black miner is said to have made over $80,000 here before leaving

    Little Negro Hill - located on the American River, it had a store, boarding house and houses; shared with Chinese and Portuguese miners, this settlement is estimated to have had 400 people

    Downieville [permanent] - founded by a Scotsman, Maj. William Downie in1849, with 10 Black sailors, an Irishman, an Indian and a Hawaiian; also called Downie's Canyon.

    Kentucky Ridge - established by ex-slaves near Hangtown (now Placerville [permanent], it lasted 2 years before an attack by rival whites caused the founders to move away

    Nigger Heaven - eventually proved rich in oil rather than gold; the black owners then leased some of the land to the Standard Oil Company

    Negro RunNegro FlatNegro ButteNigger Diggins
    Nigger Bill BendNigger Jack SloughArroyo de los NegrosIndian Gulch
    Spanish FlatRose's BarMassachusetts FlatsOroville
    Auburn RavineGold SpringsCaloma 

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    Recognition by U.S. National Historic Parks in California

    1. The San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park honors seamen. Many African Americans have been involved in the sea trades during the history of our country, especially in whaling, shipbuilding, as crewmembers in our Navy, and sailors on foreign ships since early times.
    2. The San Francisco Presidio, now an addition to Golden Gate National Recreation Area, was guarded by Buffalo Soldiers for several years during the late 1800s and early 20th Century. Some units were sent from The Presidio to work at several of the early National Parks.
    3. Yosemite, Sequoia and General Grant (now Kings Canyon) National Parks were guarded by Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry and 24th Mounted Infantry from 1898-1904. Often their units consisted of only 25 men at a time, responsible for covering huge areas of land. To read their story and see samples of their reports, please visit
    4. Capt. Charles Young of the 9th Cavalry was the first African American park supervisor at Sequoia and General Grant National Parks. He was responsible for the road construction to develop these parks for tourism, and to recommend the patented lands within the park which should be purchased. At the time of his appointment to this job in 1903, he was the only active commissioned African American graduate of West Point.
    5. The Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial. This area was a naval ammunition base, and the site of the largest explosion within the borders of the U.S. during WWII. Three hundred and twenty men (of which 202 were African-American) died and two ships were destroyed as a result, and men were court-martialed for refusing to return to work. This tragedy was primarily due to the lack of proper training in handling explosive materials and the racially unjust conditions under which the sailors had been forced to work, and helped to bring about changes in the Navy’s policies.

    It should also be noted that the African-American Civil War Memorial and Museum, located at “U” Street and Vermont Avenue N.W., in Washington DC, also bear witness to the dedication of the more than 200,000 Black Civil War soldiers. A beautiful bronze statue and a Wall of Honor listing these men by name (cared for by the National Park Service), are fitting tributes to our ancestors who fought for freedom. A website at gives more information and directions to the memorial and the museum. The Park Service also has a website, where these Soldiers, Sailors, and their units are indexed for research at

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    Fighting Against Second-Class Citizenship

    Early in the Gold Rush, because of concerns that denying African-Americans their rights might cause a delay in California being granted statehood, the State constitution was written declaring it to be a “free” state. Within a year or so, however, the melting-pot theory of the mines began to be hard-fought by some white Americans, who called themselves “nativists”. These men felt that only Americans should be allowed to mine for gold on U.S. soil, and pushed for discriminatory laws against foreign miners, especially those who were Chinese or Mexican.

    The nativists also strongly supported the Fugitive Slave Act of 1852, and soon pushed for a California version, which declared that any slave brought here before 1849 who did not return to his master would be jailed. This caused many difficulties for former slaves who had legally bought their freedom, although some had white friends who were willing to help them. Some white attorneys and a few early sympathetic judges also worked on their behalf. Several rulings were made in court cases to the effect that, since African-Americans could not testify in court, their statements that they were runaways were inadmissible. Others were deemed free, provided they had escaped within California, and had not crossed the border into another State.

    There were also a number of wealthy Blacks, particularly in the San Francisco area, who spent much of their time and money helping runaways and those less fortunate obtain their freedom. Several had been involved in abolition societies in the northeast and in the Underground Railroad, and still had connections to Frederick Douglass. Among the leaders were Henry M. Collins, Jonas Townsend, Rev. Jeremiah Sanderson, Frederick Barbados, Peter Lester, Jacob Francis, David Ruggles, and Mifflin Gibbs. Many African-American citizens also fought against attempts to impose second-class citizenship on them by sending petitions to the legislature. Usually rejected, the petitions still focused attention on the issues.

    The first civil rights organization, called The Franchise League of San Francisco, was formed in 1852. Black newspapers, such as The Mirror of the Times, The San Francisco Elevator, and The Pacific Appeal began publishing news of importance to African-Americans.

    In 1855, African Americans began to hold statewide Colored Citizens’ Conventions, where they discussed problems and possible solutions. They also listed their places of employment at that time, and the value of their property, attempting to show that they were not a burden to the State. At the 1857 Convention, property ownership was listed by county in the following amounts:

    San Francisco$450,000Nevada co.$260,000
    Mariposa co.$ 75,000Shasta co.$ 76,000
    Butte co.$ 96,000Yerba co.$ 94,000
    Siskiyou co.$ 65,000Sierra co.$ 65,000
    Tuolumne co.$ 90,000Plumas co.$ 20,000
    Santa Clara co.$ 21,000El Dorado co.$250,000
    Sacramento co.$ 84,703Amador co.$ 50,000
    Alameda co.$ 50,900San Joaquin co.$ 80,000
    Napa co.$ 30,000Sonoma co.$ 5,000

    By 1858, a Bill was proposed by whites attempting to regulate the immigration of Free Negroes, similar to the laws enacted in the southeastern States 50 years earlier. A prominent Black clergyman, Rev. J.J. Moore, was allowed to speak before the legislature, however, and the Bill did not pass. As more whites began to arrive, they began to form trade unions which pushed African-Americans out of the jobs they had normally held. Many African-Americans became discouraged and left California to pursue lives in Victoria, British Columbia, invited by the Canadian government.

    During the Civil War, wheat and wool grown in California helped the Union troops. Most volunteers never left the State, although one battalion did serve in Virginia. In 1863, the right to testify against whites in court was finally granted, and the filing of civil law suits against discrimination by African-Americans began. Other civil rights organizations, such as The Universal Negro Improvement Association, The Afro-American League, and the NAACP began forming to assist African-Americans as larger numbers of former slaves and free people began to immigrate to California.

    Some of these newcomers brought their families and took advantage of The Homestead Act. They agreed to stay for 5 years and make improvements on the land. African-Americans who were former Union soldiers were allowed to use their time in service as part of their residency requirement. Others who could afford the price, paid $1.25 per acre for land. By 1871, schools became a target for activists, but it took almost 20 years to be assured of equal education under the law. By the 1900s, hard work had begun on gaining more economic opportunities and better housing.

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    Black History in San Diego

    Thanks to Milton Hines of the San Diego African American Genealogy Group for contributing the booklet "Black Pioneers in San Diego", by Larry Malone and Gail Madyun, published by the San Diego Historical Society, which was the source of much of the following information.

    San Diego’s early African American population grew very slowly. Although there had been Black-Mexicans in the area since the time of Cortes, they had basically been assimilated into the Mexican culture and society. The city was founded as the first Pueblo and Presidio in Upper California in 1769, and has many historical landmarks. Many of these can be seen at

    The first documented American Black to arrive in San Diego was John Brown, a sailor who deserted the ship O'Cain in 1804. In 1816, three Black crewmen deserted the schooner Albatross. By 1880, there were still only 55 Blacks enumerated in the San Diego census. Most of these had come to California from the rural southeast as slaves, former slaves and employees of whites who brought them.

    Nathaniel Harrison is believed to have been the first permanent Black resident of the county. He was born a slave in 1820 in TN, and arrived in San Diego in 1848. He built a cabin on 160 acres on Mt. Palomar, and made a living for more than 50 years by raising and selling livestock and working on other nearby ranches. A street sign in Pauma Valley points the way to Nathaniel Harrison Grade.

    Between 1860 and 1870, the majority of Blacks lived in the area called Julian, where there were several Black farmers: James Hamilton, James Brown, Jesse Tull, Thomas Jackson, and Fred Coleman. It was there that Ernest Morgan and Elvira Price ran the Bon Ton Restaurant. Isaac Atkinson ran a bakery in Julian before he moved to San Diego proper and started a Black newspaper, The Colonizer, in 1892. Fred Coleman discovered gold in Julian in 1869, and a gold rush of sorts began there, which resulted in a boom town called Coleman City. Coleman later constructed and operated toll roads between El Cajon and the town.

    Probably the best known early Black woman there was America Newton, who arrived from MO in 1872 and settled in Julian. She earned her living by washing the miners' clothes, and the trail running past her cabin was named America Grade. In 1887, Albert and Margaret Robinson built, owned and operated the Hotel Robinson for 28 years. This hotel, still in operation and now known as the Julian Hotel, is a National Historical Landmark as the oldest continuously operated hotel in southern California.

    Thanks to railroad connections made to the north and east, San Diego began to grow, and by the 1890s, there was a real downtown area. Most Blacks worked as servants and unskilled laborers, or as teamsters, coachmen, cooks, sailors, porters, bootblacks, waiters and longshoremen. Many helped in the construction of the Cuyamaca Flume, which brought much needed water to San Diego. By this time, there were also some Black businesses which had customers of all races:

    Henry H. Brown, saloonGeorge Millen, blacksmithDaniel Fry, blacksmith
    Joseph Steward, lawyerIsaac Wooden, City employeeWalter Meadows, jeweler
    Amos Hudgens, barberReuben Williams (aka Reuben the Guide), toursDr. Burney, rancher
    Edward Anderson, laundry, garbage collection, and a mortuary that is still in operation

    Political, religious and social activities grew as the population increased. Solomon and Cordelia Johnson brought in a chapter of the NAACP. S.A. McFarland and Rev. George Washington Woodbey became politicians. A brass band of 13 musicians was formed. Black couples entered and won local dance contests. Early organizations, social clubs and churches were:

    Colored Voters Political ClubMcFarland Political ClubMcKinley Political Club
    Sliver Gate Colored Republican ClubHotel Florence Social ClubThe Acme Social Club
    The Violet Club (elite females)Second Baptist ChurchBethel AME Church
    Colored Employees Social and Aid ClubMt. Zion Baptist Church 

    Known members of Fidelity Lodge No. 10, Prince Hall Masons were: Charlie Goodwin, Walter McDonald, C.M. Dickens, Walter Meadows, Gus Thompson and Richard Marshall, who later became Grand Master of California's Prince Hall Masons.

    The Ku Klux Klan became somewhat active in the 1920s, but directed most of its activities against Mexicans. This was probably due to the comparatively small population of African Americans at that time.

    Segregation held sway, particularly through restrictive covenants in housing and property ownership, although a few Blacks did own large homes in mixed areas. Schools did not officially hire African American teachers until 1941.

    In the mid-1940s, World War II created changes in the number and types of jobs available in the San Diego area and other western cities. Opportunities opened for workers in factories and shipyards, and some of the rapid growth of the African American population in San Diego resulted when military men decided to settle there after the War. Since that time, Black population growth has continued at a steady pace.

    *We welcome any additions or corrections of information, extractions of records, or genealogical data from descendants of the above-named persons, or other parties who may be interested in the Black History of San Diego.

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    California Libraries, Archives, Etc.

    California State Archives
    1020 “O” Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    (916) 653-2246 (Reference Desk)
    National Archives – Pacific Sierra Region
    1000 Commodore Drive
    San Bruno, CA 94066-2350
    (650) 876-9009
    Sutro Library
    480 Winston Drive
    San Francisco, CA 94132-1777
    (415) 731-4477
    National Archives – Laguna Nigel
    24000 Avila Road
    Laguna Nigel, CA 92677
    (714) 643-4220
    California State Library
    914 Capitol Mall, Room 221
    Library & Courts Building I
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    (916) 654-0174
    City of Los Angeles Public Library (Central)
    630 West 5th Street
    Los Angeles, CA 90071
    (213) 228-7000
    UC Berkeley, The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    County of Los Angeles Public Library
    A.C. Bilbrew - Black Resource Center
    150 E. El Segundo
    Los Angeles, CA 90016
    (310) 538-3350
    LDS Family History Center
    4770 Lincoln Avenue
    Oakland, CA 94602-2325
    (510) 531-3905
    California Historical Society
    678 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    (415) 357-1848
    LDS Family History Center
    10741 Santa Monica Boulevard
    W. Los Angeles, CA 90024
    (310) 474-9990
    LA City Historical Society
    1471 Fairbanks Place
    Los Angeles, CA 90026
    UCLA Libraries
    405 Hilgard Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90095
    UCLA – Young’s Research Library
    (310) 825-4732
    UCLA – African American Studies Dept. Library
    (310) 825-6060
    Call for exact campus location directions and nearest on-campus parking lot information.
    Carlsbad City Library
    1250 Carlsbad Village Drive
    Carlsbad, CA 92009
    (760) 434-2931
    California African American Museum
    600 State Street
    Los Angeles, CA
    Autrey Museum of Western History
    4700 Western Heritage Way
    Los Angeles, CA 90027
    (323) 667-2000
    World Wide Web Library Directory for California
    California Ethnic & Multicultural Archives - Search on African-American

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    California Genealogical Societies

    California State Genealogical Alliance
    P.O. Box 311
    Danville, CA 94526-0311
    California Genealogical Society and Library
    2201 Broadway, Suite LL2
    Oakland, CA 94612-3017
    (510) 663-1358 / fax: (510) 663-1596>
    Southern California Genealogical Society & Library
    417 Irving Drive @Glenoaks Blvd.
    Burbank, CA 91504-2408
    (818) 843-7247
    Questing Heirs Genealogical Society
    City of Long Beach Public Library
    101 Pacific Avenue
    Long Beach, CA 90806
    (562) 570-7500

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    African-American Genealogical Societies and Groups in California

    California African-American Genealogical Society (CAAGS)
    P.O. Box 8442
    Los Angeles, CA 90008
    Online contact: Ronald Batiste
    “Website Under Construction”
    The African American Heritage Society
    City of Long Beach Public Library
    560 Hill Street
    Long Beach, CA 90806
    (562) 570-1050
    African American Genealogical Society of Northern California
    P.O. Box 27485
    Oakland, CA 94602-0985
    Online contact:
    Gaslamp Black Historical Society
    P.O. Box 1122469
    San Diego, CA 92112-2469"
    San Diego African American Genealogy Research Group
    P.O. Box 740240
    San Diego, CA 92174-0240
    Contact: Margaret Lewis
    High Desert Black Heritage Committee
    P.O. Box 31
    Victorville, CA 92393
    (760) 243-7486
    African American Genealogy Society of Sacramento, CA
    P.O. Box 277681
    Sacramento, CA 95827-7681
    Online Contact: Denise Griggs
    Orange Co. California African-American Genealogical Society
    Online Contact: Vanessa Schatz
    “In the Process of Formation” (OCAAGS)
    African American SIG (Special Interest Group) of the Tracy Area Genealogical Society (TAGS)
    Online Contact: Evelyn Tolbert

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    National African-American Genealogical Societies

    Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS)
    P.O. Box 73086
    Washington, DC 20056-3086
    Online Contact: Diane Thompkins
    (Has 21 Chapters in various States)
    International Society of Sons & Daughters of Slave Ancestry (ISDSA)
    P.O. Box 436937
    Chicago, IL 60643-6937
    Online Contact:

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    Some Suggested Reading

    • Blacks in Gold Rush California, Rudolph Lapp, Yale University Press, 1977.
    • In Search of the Racial Frontier, Quintard Taylor, Norton & Co., 1998.
    • Black California: The History of African Americans in the Golden State, B. Gordon Wheeler, Hippocrene Books, 1993.
    • Seeking El Dorado: African Americans in California, De Graaf, Murphy & Taylor, Autrey Museum of Western Heritage with the University of Washington Press, 2001.
    • The Black West, William Loren Katz, Touchstone Books, 1996.
    • Black Pioneers, John W. Ravage, University of Utah Press, 1997.
    • Anyplace But Here Arna Bontemps & John Conroy, Hill & Wang, 1966.
    • Pioneers of Negro Origin in California, Sue Bailey Thurman, Acme Publishing, 1952.
    • Blacks in the West, W. Sherman Savage, Greenwood Press, 1976.
    • Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California, 1500-1900, John Templeton, (2 volumes), Aspire Books, 1996.
    • California’s Black Pioneers: a Brief Historical Survey, Kenneth C. Goode, McNally & Loftin, 1974.
    • The Negro Trail Blazers, Delilah L. Beasley, Negro University Press, 1919.
    • Afro-Americans in the Far West: a Handbook for Educators, Jack Forbes & David J. Weber, Berkeley, 1969.
    • Black Oakland, Donald Hausler, Self Published, 1987. (At one time this was available only at the Oakland Public Library.)
    • California 1850: A Snapshot in Time, Janice Marschner, Coleman Ranch Press, 2001.
    • Founding the Far West, David Alan Johnson, Berkeley, 1992.
    • L.A. Unconventional: The Men & Women Who Did L.A. Their Way, Cecilia Rasmussen, The Los Angeles Times, 1998.

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    Links to California Websites: California Newspaper Project Historical Societies & Museums CA Genealogy HelpList Index to Genealogy
    http://www.californiahistory.netCalifornia History History
    http://cpl.cagenweb.comThe California Pioneer Project of the Western Frontier Digital Library Online Archive
    http://www.maritimeheritage.orgShips Logs, Passenger Lists to CA birth Records, 1905-1995 death Records, 1940-1997 Land Patent Records towns in California story of the town of Allensworth
    http://www.AfricanAmericanLA.comLos Angeles (New – Some construction) History of Santa Cruz (in 5 parts)’s List of Links for California’s California Online Resource’s California Resource Page
    http://www.ancestry.comMany databases on CA – some FREE
    http://www.cagenweb.comThe California GenWeb
    http://www.abcgenealogy.comAnother List

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    An AfriGeneas Website

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    of African American genealogical material for the 21st century"
    Placed online: 13 September 1999 :: Updated: 12 April 2007
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