Watch CBS News

California State Archives offers free tours for exhibit showcasing Black history

Black pioneers, incluencers highlighted in California State Archives exhibit
Black pioneers, incluencers highlighted in California State Archives exhibit 02:29

SACRAMENTO — In honor of Black History Month, an exhibit showcasing the contributions of African Americans will be on display at the California State Archives.

Rare documents reveal the lives of early Black settlers, influential figures, and their ongoing fight for justice.

Not far from the State Capitol building is the state archives, a division of the California Secretary of State's office that sits modestly on the fourth floor of its building.

Archivists are preparing to welcome the public for a tour during Black History Month.

"So, right now, we're showcasing our struggles against injustice," said Natalia Visante, acting state archivist. "This will be up for the next year."

This display shows a timeline of the injustices toward Black Californians and their resilience toward change. It includes the 1,100-page final report submitted by the reparations task force.

"These are the different information that the task force has presented and so, there's also an executive summary," said Kipchoge Randall, a consultant with the archives.

Protected under lock and key, documents show the early struggles of Black individuals when California entered the union as a free state.

"A statute from 1852 called the Fugitive Slave Act, which actually empowered California government officials to take African Americans who were here during the gold rush and descend them back into slavery," said Sebastian Nelson, state archivist.

Another display shows the photos and biographies of Black physicians and how their roles shaped state history.

One particular display hit close to home. It showed documents that forced local Black families off their lands.

"The state government actually sued these individuals in El Dorado County Superior Court as an eminent domain case to force them to sell their land to the state against their will, which is troubling," Nelson said.

The land, once the site of the California gold rush, was then used to create a state park. We spoke with one of those families fighting to reclaim their land and their legacy.

"Our family should be in the California history but American history, and if we did that with all Black folks in this region, there would be no need for one month that's the shortest month of the year," Jonathan Burgess said. "And we say we're good old All-American. We still got some work to do."

The state archives is hosting a free tour Tuesday starting at 10 a.m., but you'll need to reserve your ticket.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.