Like so many Californians, we share in the grief and outrage sparked by the recent killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and similar acts of violence against Black Americans across the country. Unfortunately, this is one of many tragic examples of racial injustice in our country’s history, and indeed in our own state.
California’s long history of state-sanctioned injustice and violence against African Americans and other marginalized communities began soon after the state’s founding in 1850, and includes the California legislature passing laws prohibiting African American and Native people from testifying in court, a statewide Fugitive Slave Law in 1852, and the Alien Land Law of 1913. Incidents of brutality against Black people and other people of color are a shameful part of California’s legacy, from the massacre of Chinese men by white vigilantes in Los Angeles in 1871, to lynchings of Mexican Americans throughout the 19th century, to the beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers in 1991, to the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant by a police officer in Oakland. Fortunately, the past also demonstrates ways to face our challenges with determination, courage, and fortitude.
As California’s official historical society, we commit to highlighting the struggle for justice against white supremacy in our state. Keeping both the shameful and the inspiring stories alive helps all Californians confront the past, and fashion a more just future. Today we join many others in calling for an end to violence against Black Americans, and the dismantling of anti-Black systemic racism. #BlackLivesMatter.
We encourage you to join a conversation about racial identity and racism by visiting the National Museum of African American History’s online portal Talking About Race.
Alicia L. Goehring
CEO and Executive Director
California Historical Society