Hope and California: Two Minority Perspectives
California and African Americans
It is ironic that a state purportedly named for a Black person — a mythological African queen named Califia — should have such an ignoble legacy of racial discrimination and bigotry. A history permeated by a prevailing attitude of disdain for its darker complected denizens. According to California State Archives, the presence of African descendents in the American West dates back to the 1600s. Predating by more than 200 years the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that formally ceded the colonized Spanish territory known as California to the United States. Hence, by the time California was a state, African Americans were vital members of its communities. And even though they mined, farmed and operated businesses, in the pre-Civil War years they were nevertheless denied most civil rights.
California was admitted into the Union in 1850 as a “free” state. This meant that, unlike most other states (especially in the southeast), slavery was not the law of the land. Although, within two years the State adopted a law to return “runaway” slaves to their masters. And in 1858, per documentation from the California State Archives, Chairman of the Committee on Federal Relations, Isaac Allen, introduced the Negro Exclusion Bill — AB 395 (also known as the “Nigger Bill”) to the assembly. It was described as “an Act to restrict and prevent the immigrations to and residence in this State of Negroes and Mulattoes.” The bill asserted: