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Black History in California You Don't Know About

Since its inception in 1970, Black History Month has been a celebratory reminder of trailblazers and events that have broken barriers in the history of African diaspora. In honor of the special month, we encourage you to explore these sometimes lesser-known California tours, businesses, and stories that have played a momentous role in U.S. history and Black culture.

The Sugg House in Tuolumne County
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Tuolumne County, the Sugg House was built and owned by former slaves, William and Elizabeth Sugg, whose family occupied the seven-bedroom house for 125 years. The Sugg’s along with roughly 5,000 African Americans were an integral part of the Gold Rush community with an estimated 500 thought to have mined in the Tuolumne County area.

San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora
San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), a contemporary art museum, celebrates Black cultures, ignites challenging conversations, and inspires learning through the global lens of the African Diaspora. Virtual exhibitions and events are currently available for guests to experience.

Napa Valley's First and Only Black-Owned Estate Winery
As one of the region's most well-regarded zinfandel producers, Brown Estate in Downtown Napa is the first and only Black-owned estate winery in the region. Purchased in 1980 by the Brown family, the abandoned ranch was rehabilitated to include viniferous grapes which Brown Estate farmed and sold to local winemakers for a decade.

Sequoia National Park’s First African American Superintendent
Sequoia National Park Superintendent Colonel Charles Young was the first African American national park superintendent and leader of the famed Buffalo Soldiers. Under his command, Young’s men were responsible for building the infrastructure of the park including the road to the giant forest. A portion of Highway 198 just outside the park has been renamed in his honor.

Visit Visalia: Home to Colonel Allensworth Historic State Park
In 1908, Colonel Allen Allenworth and a group of African American families founded, financed and governed an all-Black farming community now known as Colonel Allensworth Historic State Park. Explore the seven restored and reconstructed buildings, including the colonel’s house, a schoolhouse, Baptist church and library, as well as artifacts and photographs.

Santa Barbara’s First Female-Owned Vineyard
Founded in 1997 by Iris Rideau of Black-Creole descent from New Orleans, Rideau Vineyard holds the title of being the first Black female-owned winery in the United States. For 20 years, Iris owned and operated the winery where 9,000 bottles of her favorite Rhône style wines were produced annually. The winery was sold in 2016, but Rideau Vineyard continues to produce some of the best varietals in the Santa Ynez region.

Destination Crenshaw: A Los Angeles Art and Culture Experience
As one of the largest Black communities west of the Mississippi River, Destination Crenshaw is an unprecedented Los Angeles community-led project that will celebrate over 200 years of Black activism in the city. Debuting in 2021, the 1.3-mile open-air museum will create community gathering spaces surrounded by over 100 Black public artworks that will serve as cultural landmarks and cement L.A.'s role in creating a Black Renaissance.

San Luis Obispo’s Community Activist, Maxine Lloyd Lewis
Maxine Lloyd Lewis is best known for her work as an activist in San Luis Obispo. Born in 1926, Lewis founded an organization focused on serving Thanksgiving dinners to the disadvantaged. She was quoted saying “give them a flower while they live — not when they are dead.” In 2020, more than 40 years after her passing, the City of SLO honored Lewis with a 20-by-20 foot chalk portrait with flowers surrounding her.

San Diego’s Celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade
Alongside San Diego’s Harbor Boulevard, the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade is a 12-acre linear park commemorating Dr. King’s life. Several sculptures and 30 plaques tell of his legacy and inspiring words. Of the most notable sculptures is Breaking the Chains by Melvin Edwards, a tall metal monument dedicated to the fight for civil rights.

Balboa Park’s Worldbeat Cultural Center
The WorldBeat Center in Balboa Park is a non-profit arts organization devoted to celebrating the African diaspora and Indigenous world cultures from art exhibits and concerts to outdoor festivals and virtual events.

Note: As communities re-open after COVID-19-related closures, some parks, businesses and attractions may still be closed or have new protocols in place. Please verify local guidelines and regulations for all destinations and hours and availability of individual businesses before publishing. Check out Visit California’s Responsible Travel Hub for guidance on how visitors can travel within California safely.