California State Parks Invites You to Celebrate Black History Month

California State Parks invites the public to celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth by visiting parks across the state where you can discover connections to places with a rich history of Black and African Americans.

Here are some interesting historical facts that you may not have known.

Colonel Allen Allensworth. Photo from California State Parks.

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park 
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, about 45 miles north of Bakersfield, off Highway 99 in Tulare County, preserves and interprets a remarkable example of an all-Black settlement established here in 1908. Susan D. Anderson, history curator at the California African American Museum, coined the phrase Black Town Movement to refer to this period when more than 1,200 Black settlements, enclaves and towns were established across the country in the late 18th and early 20th centuries in the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction era when anti-Black, Jim Crow laws proliferated. It was here in 1908 that retired Colonel Allen Allensworth, educator William Payne, miner John W. Palmer, minister William H. Peck, and real estate agent Harry A. Mitchell founded the California Colony and Home Promoting Association and purchased the land for the settlement. Allensworth became the first all-Black voting precinct, school district, and judicial district in the state. It also had the first branch of the Tulare County Public Library. There’s so much more to explore at Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

The Chapel of Saint Marie at Camp Reynolds on Angel Island State Park. Photo from California State Parks.

Angel Island State Park 
Did you know there’s a connection between Angel Island State Park and Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park? The Chapel of Saint Marie is tucked away in the trees that have grown over the hill behind the historic row of Officers’ quarters at historic Civil War Camp Reynolds garrison on Angel Island State Park, the largest island in the Francisco Bay. This is where Col Allen Allensworth served as Chaplain for the 24th Infantry here with his wife Josephine Leavell Allensworth at the turn of the last century. There was a schoolroom attached for children of the post. Col. and Mrs. Allensworth, a concert pianist who accompanied him during chapel services, emphasized and valued education through their lives as seen in the design of the town of Allensworth in the San Joaquin Valley.

John B. Adam’s granddaughters, Helen Adams Armstrong (far left) and Eunice Adams Lisberg (middle in blue) stand with family members in front of their photograph included in an exhibit produced by the Relevancy and History Project at California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside, California. Photo from California State Parks.

California Citrus State Historic Park.
Born into slavery, John B. Adams came to California a freed man and was trained in horticulture on Lucky Baldwin’s ranch in Los Angeles County. In 1873 in Riverside, California, Adams budded the first Washington navel orange tree, which effectively started the citrus industry as we know it today. That parent tree is California Historic Landmark No. 20. His story has been featured in an exhibit produced by the Relevancy and History Project at California Citrus State Historic Park.

Monroe-Gooch family photograph with Andrew Monroe (center, in top hat). Andrew Monroe’s parents were Nancy and Peter Gooch. Why the different surnames? The Monroe family bought Andrew as an infant from his parent’s enslaver. His mother Nancy saved $700 and after her husband Peter’s death, she paid off Andrew’s tenant-farmer contract. She helped Andrew, his wife Sarah, and their sons Pearly and Grant move to Coloma and start a farm. Photo from California State Parks.

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
In Coloma, California, the discovery of gold sparked the greatest voluntary migration of people around the world. As word of James Marshall’s gold discovery on January 24, 1848, spread, both free and enslaved Blacks brought by their enslavers from the Midwest and southern U.S., joined the gold rush. Many of them eventually prospected in the region and some settled in Coloma.

Many African American families, like the Burgess, Frances, Harris, Julian, Monroe, Smallwood and Wilson families, formed strong community bonds and not only found ways to prosper, but also have left a legacy, helping to preserve much of the history in what is today’s Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Photo from California State Parks.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park 
Allen Light, a sailor from the East Coast, became one of the first African American businesspersons in San Diego, California. During the late 1840s, Allen Light lived in Old Town San Diego with another free Black man, Richard Freeman, in a building Freeman had purchased next to La Casa de Machado y Silvas adobe. During their time in San Diego, Light and Freeman operated a saloon and dry goods store together. They became the first African American businessmen in San Diego and much of this information may never have come to light, if it wasn’t for a heater installation a century later. In the 1940s, workers installing a heater in La Casa de Machado y Silvas adobe found a pocket of space intentionally created with smaller adobe bricks. Inside, they found Allen Light’s sailor protection papers and his orders of appointment from the Mexican government.

Photo of Light’s sailor protection papers courtesy of San Diego History Center. 
El Ranchito Settlement circa 1880, now Pío Pico State Historic Park. Photo from California State Parks.

Pío Pico State Historic Park
In the Los Angeles area, Pío Pico State Historic Park was the home of the last governor of Alta California, Don Pío Pico. He was of Italian, African, Mexican and Spanish ancestry, and lived through the land transition of Spain to Mexico in 1821 and then from Mexico to the U.S. in 1848. His mother was a descendant of enslaved Africans, and his dad was of Native American and Spanish heritage.

How You Can Participate
The California Natural Resources Agency is hosting a number of events to celebrate Black History Month. Visit for more information.

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