New travelling exhibition visits Montana de Oro State Park
Exhibition investigates African American histories in rural California
–A new travelling exhibition at Montaña de Oro State Park explores the rich, long histories of African Americans in rural California.
From the 1849 Gold Rush to today, Black Californians have been part and parcel of rural areas, and histories of California’s rural communities are incomplete without including the role of African Americans. “We Are Not Strangers Here: African American Histories in Rural California” is a new travelling exhibition appearing at the Spooner Ranch House in Montaña de Oro State Park from Aug. 15 to Oct. 10, 2021. Visitors can tour the exhibit every day during open hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
An exhibition launch event will occur on Saturday, Aug. 21 from 2-5 p.m. At 2 p.m., a panel of local community leaders will discuss African American history in San Luis Obispo County. The panel includes Dr. Cornel Morton, who is the president of the San Luis Obispo Diversity Coalition, Judy Drake , who has been a library staff member for 45 years at Cal Poly, Dr. Dan Krieger, who is a retired Cal Poly history professor, and Cheryl Vines, who is the co-founder of the San Luis Obispo chapter of the NAACP. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets or folding chairs to listen to the panel discussion, which will occur on the lawn outside of the Spooner Ranch House.
This travelling exhibition highlights unknown and untold stories of Black farmers, ranchers and rural residents. These stories challenge myths about early California and create new narratives about freedom, self-governance, and civic culture. African Americans are not strangers to rural California; the culture of cultivating the earth runs deep. Over successive migrations, generations of African Americans settled in agricultural areas from as far north as Siskiyou County to the Central Valley and Imperial County in the South. Black residents had a favorable impact on their rural communities, opening schools, building churches, and exercising vigilance about the equal rights of citizens. Some African Americans pursued lives and work in all-Black communities, away from the limits and discrimination found in society at large. Today, Black agricultural stewardship continues at farms and ranches across the state, and urban farms thrive in many cities across the state.
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