As California Releases Historic Reparations Report, New ACLU Video Highlights "Free" State's Hidden Slavery History

Media Contact:, (415) 621-2493

Article Media

With the eyes of the world watching, California has released a historic report  calling for reparations for the descendants of enslaved African Americans.

But even though a state panel held public hearings on the matter for two years, interviewing more than 100 expert witnesses, many Californians still have no idea the Golden State enslaved Black people.

That is exactly why the ACLU of Northern California has released a new video, California’s Hidden History of Slavery: The Case for Reparations, highlighting the state’s little-known Fugitive Slave Act that unleashed racial terror on Black people and made a mockery of the state constitution’s ban on slavery.

The video explores the story of three formerly enslaved Black men who were living their California Gold Rush dream, building a lucrative mining supply business in just a couple of months. One cool spring night in 1852, an armed posse of white men burst into their cabin while they were asleep and arrested them – accusing them of being fugitive slaves in a supposed “free” state.

California’s Hidden History of Slavery: The Case for Reparations is a continuation of our public education campaign, Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California, which unearthed stories that were deliberately left out of official histories of California.

We traced the enslavement of Black people during the Gold Rush in the mid-19th century through more than 170 years of discriminatory, government-sanctioned policies that deliberately inflicted harms on African Americans. This racist assault excluded many Black people from opportunities to build wealth that were afforded to white families. Slavery and its legacy of anti-Black racism is a major driver of the vast racial inequality that exists today in mass incarceration, employment, education, health, and housing, to name just a few.

Learn more about this California hidden history and the case for why reparations are not only just, but necessary at Gold

Main Article Content