Even today’s most progressive states have a troubling history with slavery. California is no exception. The ACLU has started a public education campaign called “Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California” to ensure the state’s role in the evil institution of slavery no longer remains hidden...
California entered the Union as a free state, but there are hidden stories of slavery to be told. The role of slaves in the Gold Rush — and the ways slaves and free black people were systematically excluded from the resulting wealth by laws and court rulings — does not make it into most U.S. history books. But it is a central narrative of Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California, a public education campaign launched by the ACLU of Northern California late last year.
We are in a historical moment between the attempted destruction of a people and a planet, and whatever we do next. If we are to move forward as an equitable society, it cannot be with further harm to Native land and culture. (To better understand the state's legacy of genocide and slavery, we strongly suggest exploring the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California's online project Gold Chains, which can be found at www.goldchainsca.org.)
The ACLU of Northern California in collaboration with radio station KQED, the California Historical Society and the Equal Justice Society co-created an educational project directed at highlighting the stories of slavery throughout California.
KQED - Mary Ellen Pleasant, a black woman, came to San Francisco in the mid-1800s and defied white society’s constraints and prejudices to not only amass great wealth, but to also use her power to immeasurably advance the cause of civil rights in the city.
KQED - Auctioning off human beings is a practice many would think was confined to the pre-Civil War American South. Here in California, slavery was purportedly banned during the 1849 Constitutional Convention. But even though it was situated in a supposedly “free” state, Los Angeles held its own human auctions during the mid-19th century. And the product for sale was Native Americans.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—The ACLU of Northern California (ACLU NC) today launched “Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California,” a public education campaign that exposes chapters of California’s history that may come as a surprise, if not an outright shock to many people. Little known is the fact that while California entered the Union as a “free” state under the Compromise of 1850, slavery was rampant.
The mission of Gold Chains is to uncover the hidden history of slavery in California by lifting up the voices of courageous African American and Native American individuals who challenged their brutal treatment and demanded their civil rights, inspiring us with their ingenuity, resilience, and tenacity. We aim to expose the role of the courts, laws, and the tacit acceptance of white supremacy in sanctioning race-based violence and discrimination that continues into the present day. Through an unflinching examination of our collective past, we invite California to become truly aware and authentically enlightened.