The global slave trade which, from the 6th to the 20th century seized millions of Africans from their homeland to deport and enslave them in different parts of the world, has long been a hidden history including slavery in the Sacramento region.
In order not to forget this tragedy, UNESCO launched, The Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage, whose aim is to meet the historical and moral obligation of tackling in a holistic, methodical and consensual manner this painful chapter in the history of humankind.
“Through their struggles, their desire for dignity and freedom, slaves contributed to the universality of human rights. We must teach the names of the heroes of this story, because they are the heroes of all mankind." Irina Bokova, Director General, UNESCO.
1830 – 1850, major eastern United States maritime ports prohibited ‘freeborn men’ of African ancestry from their most lucrative career during the Age of Sail. Negro Seamen Acts facilitated a mass migration of ‘expert’ Negro seamen and many found great success in Mexico, Caribbean, South America and the Pacific Rim. California was a favorite destination in the migration toward freedom.
In 1845, Honorable William Alexander Leidesdorff, Jr. “African Founding Father of California” owned and operated the only maritime warehouse at the Port of San Francisco and Leidesdorff Ranch, his 35,000 acre successful commodity export businesses along the American River Basin, helped to solidify the region for people of African Ancestry to migrate towards a greater measure of freedom.
The Gold Rush and California statehood, in 1850, expedited an influx of industrious free men of Pan-African ancestry to California while a wave of enslaved Africans from throughout our Southern United States found a difficult path, many were enslaved in California, some enslaved human beings were advertised for sale in the Sacramento Bee.
Negro Hills, CA is one of the extraordinary early Black agricultural communities and maintains a golden historical legacy of the free migration of American citizens of African ancestry.
In 1849 three enterprising men from the New England seaboard named Vosey, Long and French opened a store and boarding house called the Civil Usage House. Business was good. Gold Rush “fever” swept across the world like wildfire and brought Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Mormon, Chinese and even more Black pioneers yearning for a greater measure of freedom.
Early success was assured and obtained throughout Black Sacramento regional communities of Negro Village, Negro Bar, and Negro Hill. A strong case can be made that during (1845-1857) the Black population in the Sacramento River Basin obtained a measure of freedom that remains unsurpassed today.
Charles Crocker, brother of Edwin Crocker and Dewitt Stanford, brother of Leland Stanford, joined the Negro Hill business community competing directly with the Negro established trade and commerce, this is a very strong indicator of the business opportunity that was established in these communities.
In 1853, Negro Hill population exceeded 1200 and could boast of a multiethnic community unmatched outside the Port of San Francisco. Mormon Island / Negro Hill was the hub of a regional community that included Salmon Falls, Massachusetts Flat, Chile Hill, and many mining camps along the American River.
In 1854, Rev. Newton Miller noted that in his racially mixed Methodist Church at Negro Hills, “Negroes constitute nearly all the church members and are a majority of the congregation.” Later in 1854, portions of the deeply religious community of Negro Hill had deteriorated into a Wild West saloon and place of ill repute.
The California State Legislature passed laws prohibiting Blacks from testifying in court, homesteading land, voting and public education. These environmental hazards helped to destroy the harmonious beginnings of Negro Hill, CA.
A small group of drunken, broke and destitute white citizens near Negro Hill began to terrorize the Negro business community. Theft, fights and lynching were effectively encouraged because of the legal prohibition of equal access to the law in early California State History.
In 1856, Mormon Island burned down and the many residents crossed Shaw Bridge and moved into the community of Negro Hill at the same time the California Colored Convention Movement began to address racial disenfranchisement, specific to ‘colored’ citizens in the State of California.
1857 U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney proclaimed in the Dred Scott decision, “Black folk have no rights that white folk are bound to respect.” This landmark decision of March 6, 1857 changed America forever.
Today, California State Historical Landmark No. 570 of Negro Hill is missing for nearly a decade. A small portion Negro Hills Cemetery was relocated during the 1954 construction of Folsom Dam to provide flood relief to the lower Sacramento River Basin; however, government officials sought fit to rename Negro Hill, “Nigger Hill” on 36 “unknown” grave markers reflective of the battle for basic Human Rights for people of African ancestry in the Sacramento region.
During the 150th Anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation leading Sacramento regional government officials, civic organizations, and student activists will continute to restore proper dignity and respect to our early Black Pioneers.
Together, we join the global community and bring light to our hidden past. Negro Hill, California memorial and monuments is linked to linked to the slave trade and slavery. The remains buried not far from the California State Capitol bear tangible witness to that history and provide a memorial itinerary in the regions and countries marked by that tragedy. In addition to their educational role in informing new generations of that painful past, these memorial places and sites also serve to establish memorial tourism activities.
Join Tonight’s Celebration
Queen Sheba Restaurant, 1404 Broadway, Sacramento, California
Thursday, August 23, 2012, 7:00 p.m.