Learn More About San Diego’s Rich Black History

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Today, San Diego has a relatively small African-American population (5.5%) when compared to the nation as a whole (12.8%). So for some, it may come as a surprise that the San Diego African American community has a rich heritage that is known well beyond our area. So, if it is a surprise to you, incorporate some of the following activities during February as our nation celebrates Black History Month.

Blacks were among the earliest settlers as Americans headed west to explore California in the mid-1800s. Some of the earliest black settlers made their way to the mountain town of Julian during its Gold Rush.  You can learn about the black history of that period by participating in the Black Historical Tour of Julian on weekends, year-round at 2PM. One of the tour stops will be the Historic Robinson Hotel (now known as the Julian Hotel). This hotel, started by a freed slave who headed west, is the oldest continually operating hotel in California.

Did you know the last Governor of Alto-California before our area became a part of the United States was of African-American ancestry?  Did you know the last cavalries of Buffalo Soldiers, when we had a segregated military, were stationed in the outskirts of San Diego? How about the fact that San Diego’s East Village became known as the ‘Harlem of the West’ from the late 1920′s to early 1940′s when legendary Jazz and Blues Musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Nat King Cole hung out and entertained local audiences? You can learn about this rich history by visiting the Museum of San Diego African American History, taking a Harlem of the West tour, or driving out to Campo to visit the Gaskill Brothers Stone Store Museum. You will also find that the Black History Museum in the East Village offers a number of tour options to explore black history in San Diego.

If I have wet your appetite to learn more, start with the research and publications on San Diego Black History from the San Diego Historical Society. You should also consider taking a look into local events taking place to celebrate Black History month. Here are two sources to get you started:

San Diego Black History Events at the University of California, San Diego – Several events are taking place each week including forums, music and dance workshops, and a free family day at the Birch Aquarium.

San Diego Black History Events at San Diego State University – Lectures, Plays, and Films are on tap throughout the month.

I was quite surpised to learn the extent of Black History in San Diego. I hope you will enjoy the rich history our area has to offer as well.

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