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Celebrating Black History and Culture in California State Parks

“Footprints” is a Parks California blog series highlighting the contributions of people and communities in state parks. Revisit our past blogs on the impact of women, as well as LGBTQIA+ and Hispanic and Latinx communities in the outdoors. Check out our most recent post honoring California’s Indigenous heritage and impact.

One of our favorite things about California’s 280 state parks is the rich and diverse history visitors can uncover. These public spaces are home to stories and contributions from people from all backgrounds, religions, ethnicities and cultures. It is up to us to remember, share and center those stories and contributions in the work we do today.

We’d like to invite you to join us in celebrating and elevating Black narratives in and around state parks. 

For us, this starts with a look back at the impact Black individuals and communities have had on California State Parks. 

For example, did you know Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park was created to honor Simon Rodia, a self-taught Italian-American artist – yet the Black community in Los Angeles has left a legacy of creativity in this park’s long history. (Watch more here.)

Additionally, Candlestick Point State Recreation Area is what it is today thanks to countless contributions from the Black community of Bayview-Hunters Point. (See more here.)

From there, it’s important to get involved in the work to protect and uplift Black history and culture in California State Parks.

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park (Allensworth SHP) celebrates Black history like no other state park. Allensworth was the first-known town in California with a thriving Black population.

We celebrated Black history with the Friends of Allensworth foundation for ParkSpeak in 2021. Check out the video below:

Today, Allensworth SHP remains a testament to Black history and celebrates the achievements of the only town in California to be founded and governed by Black communities. 

Other California Black history gems include Allen Light, who was a Black American who moved to San Diego from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just before the Gold Rush. Learn more about his story and view his sailor protection papers (or freedom papers), discovered in 1967 near what is now Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Check out this presentation by Old Town San Diego SHP here!

Here’s how we can all work to recognize Black History Beyond February:

Black History Month is an important reminder to intentionally reflect on the contributions of Black communities – but it cannot stop there. Black History Month is every month, every day, every minute. This is not just about honoring contributions of the past, but making a commitment to being better allies as well as more inclusive storytellers, especially in the history of California State Parks. Only then can we truly walk this path together to make the outdoors a more welcoming place for all.  

Explore these Black History Month resources curated by California State Parks! 

Photo credits:

  • Photo of teachers at the Allensworth school. Courtesy of Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.
  • Photo of Colonel Allensworth. Courtesy of Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.
  • Photo of The Allensworth Hotel. Courtesy of California State Parks.