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african american/black experience project: 

A historic Context, Oral history, and survey of african american history from the city's early history to the recent past

The City of Sacramento is seeking public participation in its effort to document the history of African Americans in Sacramento.  This grant-funded project calls for both detailed historical research as well as the collecting of oral history.  Community involvement in publicizing this effort, locating and interviewing community historians, and identifying key historic sites is essential for ensuring the project's success.


The Southwest corner
of 6th & M Streets.
The image shows the
Zan Zibar Cafe,
a popular black-owned
cafe and night club,
April 7, 1950 (Center
for Sacramento History,
Eugene Hepting Collection,
1985/ 024/0790)

Built Environment Two African American
boys raise their
fists in the air,
1969 (Center for
History, Sacramento Bee

Water Florida Inn Restaurant
interior featuring
the all African-American
Swing Band,
1920-1930 (Center
for Sacramento History,
Al & Mary Babayco
Collection, 2003/027/006)


The City of Sacramento’s preservation program dates to the early 1970s, yet the contributions of the city’s African American residents, as well as Sacramento’s other ethnic groups, remain underexamined. The Black community has been sustained historically by a vibrant network of organizations, institutions, businesses and noteworthy individuals that helped the community survive and thrive, despite a pervasive culture of racism, exclusion and oppression that has marked American society. Yet, no comprehensive city-wide historic framework exists currently to support the comprehensive identification, interpretation or preservation of the physical embodiments and intangible memories of these events for future generations. To address this shortcoming, and fundamentally broaden preservation practices in the city, staff intends to develop a historic framework (termed an “historic context statement” by professional historians) for examining and documenting the African American/Black experience from the city’s early history to the recent past.

The purpose of the project is to provide a foundation for the future identification, evaluation, registration, interpretation, and treatment of historic properties; as well as facilitate a public engagement, interpretation and celebration of places and persons important to the history of the African American community in Sacramento, and in a way that can be sustained over time.


View of a Black Panthers Rally, 1969
(Center for Sacramento History,
Sacramento Bee Collection,

Two boys wrap
their arms around each
other's shoulders, 1969
(Center for Sacramento History,
Sacramento Bee Collection,

Wilson C. Riles first African American
to hold statewide office
in California as the
Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1965.
(Center for Sacramento History,
Sacramento Bee Collection,

Public Documents and Links
Seeking Volunteers PDF
Project Description/Scope
Sacramento Observer Historic Landmarks

Project Background

The project is funded by the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. As part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the goal of the organization is to “preserve and protect places that have been overlooked in American history and represent centuries of African American activism, achievement, and resilience” (taken from their website). Other organizations that have received support include the Oakland Public Library, the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in Denver, and the National Marian Anderson Historical Society and Museum in Philadelphia.

The project will be managed by city staff with assistance by students from Sacramento State University (CSUS), community partners, and a team of professional consultants. Staff has met with the following organizations to discuss the project and its goals:

  • Black Small Business Association of California
  • California Black Chamber of Commerce
  • CSUS History Program Faculty and Public History Program Faculty
  • Oak Park Neighborhood Association
  • Valley Vision
  • Preservation Sacramento

These groups have also pledged their support to the project. For more information on the scope and description, see the documents above.


Morrie Turner, the Sacramento artist
and cartoonist best known
for the strip Wee Pals,
sketches a likeness of
Donna Hanson (back to camera)
at Hazel Strauch School, April 1978
(Center for Sacramento History,
Sacramento Bee Collection,

Beatrice Green, Project Coordinator
of the Oak Park Urban Renewal Project,
February 1973
(Center for Sacramento History,
Sacramento Bee Collection,

Archie Moore, former
light heavyweight champion,
with the ABC boys
(All Boys Can, a club for African American boys)
Front row, left to right: Darrell Whitfield,
Oneal Claborne, Pie Huey, Curtis Pope.
Back row: Ferrell Whitfield, Archie Moore,
Overton Claborne, Regie Huey,
and Dwight Calloway (chief junior instructor). May 1967
(Center for Sacramento History,
Sacramento Bee Collection,

Gilbert Hamilton, Executive Director,
Oak Park Project Area Committee,
February 1973
(Center for Sacramento History,
Sacramento Bee Collection,


Public Outreach

Be sure to sign up for news and alerts from the City's Historic Preservation team to learn about meetings, hearing, and how to participate in the African-American/Black Oral History Project.