California Can Be Golden for African Americans Too

Zaneta J Smith
Sep 10, 2018 · 2 min read
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A photo of schoolchildren at Allensworth, the onetime black community in Central California. (California State Parks)

Beaches. Mountains. Deserts. Forests. Stretches for 900 miles. Well-respected universities…UCs, Cal States, Stanford. Coveted places of interest…Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Disneyland, Yosemite.

To some, California is the place to be.

In 2018, California has a population of 40 million people. Black Americans make up about 2 million of that population. Just 170 years ago, Black people were not welcome. California’s first Governor Peter Burnett states in 1849, “It could be no favor, and no kindness, to permit [free blacks] to settle in the State…I should not recommend any measure to expel them…the object is to keep them out.” Fifty-nine years later, Colonel Allensworth created a town north of Bakersfield for black people to own land, run businesses, and create better lives.

Now, according to the American Community Survey, the top 5 California cities with the highest number of Black people are:

  1. Inglewood
  2. Compton
  3. Gardena
  4. Oakland
  5. Hawthorne

And, California holds some of the most affluent African-American communities in the nation: View Park, Baldwin Hills, and Ladera Heights.

California for black people is not without its struggle. Check the unemployment rates, black people being pushed out to the suburbs due to neighborhood revitalization, and the lack of access to capital…just to name a few. However, California is still ripe with possibilities and opportunities.

California is still one of the most diverse states in the nation. As a born and bred resident of the Golden State, this afforded me the opportunity to be educated, gain understanding, and grow empathy for various ethnic groups and their California migration story. Thus, further appreciating my family’s own migratory journey from Mobile Alabama to Los Angeles, CA in the 1950s. My grandparent’s struggle to settle roots, my mother’s struggle to integrate racist school systems, and now me. I am basking in the era of black people stepping out into the California sunshine to rain on Peter Burnett’s parade. From mayor’s to Board of Supervisors to US Senators & House of Representatives, Black people are making their mark, continuing to show representation, and pave the way.

“This land is your land. This land is my land. This land was made for you and me.” — Woody Guthrie

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