History You Should Know: California Once Tried to Ban Black People

The Black Detour Team April 11, 2019

When most people think of California today we think of Los Angeles, Hollywood and the entertainment business. However, when Peter Burnett spoke in Sacramento in 1849, he faced a group of men determined to take California from an upstart territory to a state. Burnett had been elected the state’s first governor just one day before and addressed legislators the future of Black people in the state.

California had decided to ban the practice of slavery after a heated debate, but the new governor’s vision of the state didn’t include Black residents at all.

“It could be no favor, and no kindness, to permit [free blacks] to settle in the State,” he said, “while it would be a most serious injury to us….Had they been born here, and had acquired rights in consequence, I should not recommend any measures to expel them…the object is to keep them out.”