Honoring Black Sacramento History

a sepia toned photo of african american children at school

Excerpted from a story by the Davis Humanities Institute, April 26, 2021

"On April 15th, scholars, students, community members, and cultural leaders joined together for the second event in the Reframing Sacramento series, “Black Sacramento.” Funded by a grant from California Humanities and co-sponsored by the UC Davis Department of African and African American Studies and the Center for Sacramento History, the Reframing Sacramento Series examines the history, diverse communities,  and current climate of the city, emphasizing those voices that have too often been left out...

The final presentations were given by UC Davis professor Milmon Harrison and three of his students, Nia Robertson, Keara Bell, and Sade McAlister. Dr. Harrison spoke about his book project, “The Black Valley,” which expands the history of Black California through focusing on the smaller cities and towns in the Central Valley, asking why African-Americans migrated to the Valley, what they found, and the contemporary impacts of this history. He spoke of the many sundown towns in the Central Valley and shared stories of Nathaniel S. Colley, a highly-decorated military veteran, graduate of Tuskegee Institute and Harvard Law, who opened the first Black private practice law firm in California with his wife. Colley had major roles in civil rights and housing discrimination, which in turn have had lasting national implications through the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

Dr. Harrison introduced his students, who had conducted their own local Black history research through his community-engaged learning course. Nia Robertson, a recent UCD graduate, worked on a project compiling information on Black interments in Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery. She is planning to continue this research after her graduation through a partnership with the Center for Sacramento History. Keara Bell and Sade McAlister, two current UCD students, have researched the history of local Black community leaders such as Grace Brown, Albert Hick, the Canson Brothers, and Nathaniel Colley. They are also working on their own oral history interviews, having learned from Clarence Caesar’s interviewing styles. They are excited to have their interviews of Black elders archived in the Sacramento Library. Dr. Harrison added that they are looking for more Black elders to interview, so if you would like to be interviewed or know someone who would like to be interviewed, contact him at mfharrison@ucdavis.edu."

Read the full story at Davis Humanities Institute

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