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California Cultures

African Americans
Unidentified African American couple, ca. 1876 Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally and his family (November 7, 1978). Kathleen Cleaver and Panthers in Prosecution's office


Gold Rush Era to 1900
The Struggle for Economic Equality (1900-1950s)
Community Life (1950s-1980s)
Politics and Community (1970s-present)
Civil Rights and Social Reform (1950s-1970s)


Although a relative few Afro-Latinos and other Africans came to California before the mid-19th century, the Gold Rush brought the first real migration of African Americans to the state. Historic photographs and artwork show the changing lives of African Americans from the Gold Rush Era and Statehood (when many, but not all, slaves in California gained their freedom), through years of struggle to claim their civil rights. Although these images cannot possibly encompass every aspect of African American life in America during this time, they offer a candid look into a number of important areas in California: black migration into the state, the effects of segregation and racial discrimination, the struggle for social equality, the Civil Rights Movement and its leaders, the Black Panthers, urban violence and community renewal, and the rise of the black middle class and black political leadership.