Little-known Stories of Marin’s Early Black Settlers


by Marilyn L. Geary

During World War II, a large number of black workers arrived in Marin to build Liberty Ships in Sausalito, giving rise to a strong community of African Americans in Marin City. Yet, although their names and contributions are little-known, black people also played a part in Marin’s early history.

In 1850, John (Black John) Pinkston was one of the first persons granted a business license by the newly-founded County of Marin. He was married to an adopted daughter of the Miwok tribe leader Camilo Ynitia and served as a mediator between the Miwoks and the whites. Today his name lives on in Novato’s Black John Slough and Black John Road.

San Rafael barber Sanford A.Taylor protested the Testimony Bills, which prohibited blacks from testifying in cases that involved white persons. He drowned in the wreck of the Steamer LaBouchere off Point Reyes in 1866.

Daniel Brown moved from Chicago with the Albert Kent family in 1871 to serve as a coachman on the 800-acre Kent estate. His children grew up riding ponies and collecting wildflowers on extensive estate property that became Kentfield. Later the Browns purchased a home on Lathan Street in San Rafael to be closer to the B Street School. The Brown children were often the only blacks in the classroom.

The lives of these and other black pioneers helped make Marin what it is today, and their stories offer fresh perspectives on the history of their time.

Originally published at



Anne T. Kent California Room
Anne T. Kent California Room Newsletter

The official Medium account of the archive of Marin County history & culture at the Marin County Free Library