“history textbooks often flatten the narratives, excluding events and upholding a Euro-centric narrative of what constitutes “history.”
In the mountains of Northern California, in Shasta and Siskiyou Counties, one of the largest gold mining events of the 19th century occurred. Within a few years of the first discovery of gold, miners had arrived from all corners of the globe. While contemporary historical accounts depict this rush as a largely indistinguishable mass of opportunists, careful study reveals motivations were far from singular. Among those arriving in the west were a significant number of African Americans. In fact by 1852 over 2,000 men of African American descent were in the California gold fields. However, today little is ever mentioned about the free and enslaved black men who lived in the northern California wilderness by pick and shovel.
Through the lens of contemporary storytelling, theater, photography, music and video we will reconstruct the lives of these African Americans. Through collaboration with history professionals and local artists we will work with African American communities in Redding and Siskiyou County to tell the story of migration and of the experience working in often remote mines. This project will finally provide opportunities for members of the African American community to assert “their” story. 1
(1)African American Storytelling: Collective Memory, Creative Resistance, and Personal Transformation.