In the mountains of Northern California, in Shasta and Siskiyou Counties, one of the largest gold mining events of the 19th century occurred. Within a few years of the first discovery of gold, miners had arrived from all corners of the globe. While contemporary historical accounts depict this rush as a largely indistinguishable mass of opportunists, careful study reveals motivations were far from singular. Among those arriving in the west were a significant number of African Americans. In fact, by 1852 over 2,000 men of African American descent were in the California goldfields. However, today little is ever mentioned about the free and enslaved black men who lived in the northern California wilderness by pick and shovel.
Through the lens of contemporary storytelling, theater, photography, music, and video we will reconstruct the lives of these African Americans. Through collaboration with history professionals and local artists, we will work with African American communities in Redding and Siskiyou County to tell the story of migration and of the experience working in often remote mines. This project will finally provide opportunities for members of the African American community to assert “their” story.
We were on a roll pre covid and headed to the bay Area to tell our story of this forgotten part of California's history. All our presentations were shut down. We created an online video of our work and now we are creating a book of our research and about how we used art and theater to spread the word about a forgotten chapter of California's beginning. We have had some important authors volunteer essays for the book as they believe as we do, the story must get out there to the public adding an important chapter to African American history. Now we will have a document that can be read by other scholars and students and for the general public. Our research has not seen the light of day since 1880 and for sure forgotten in all the contemporary reports today. See video at https://vimeo.com/384938395
Funded by San Francisco, CA (March 2021)