We Are Not Strangers Here: African American Histories in Rural California

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“We Are Not Strangers Here” explores the little-known history of African Americans’ relationship with wilderness and the natural landscape of rural California. It’s widely recognized that most African Americans who migrated to California moved into booming cities, rejecting agricultural labor because of its association with slavery and sharecropping. But African Americans are not strangers to rural California; the culture of cultivating the earth runs deep. These residents often had a favorable impact on their communities, opening schools, working the land, and exercising vigilance about the equal rights of citizens. Over successive migrations in the 19th and 20th centuries, generations settled in agricultural areas from as far north as Siskiyou County to Imperial County in the South. Stories of black farmers, ranchers, and rural residents help challenge myths about early California and create new narratives about freedom, self-governance, and civic culture.

We Are Not Strangers Here: African American Histories in Rural California is a collaboration between the Cal Ag Roots Project at the California Institute for Rural Studies; Susan Anderson of the California African American Museum; the California Historical Society; Exhibit Envoy; and Dr. Caroline Collins, Post-Doc Researcher from UC San Diego. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the 11th Hour Project at the Schmidt Family Foundation.