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Honoring Black History Month

Black History Month, observed in February, is an annual celebration of the achievements of African Americans and recognizing the role they play in U.S. history.

California Humanities is proud to have provided support for projects that have documented California’s African American community and their vital role in shaping our history and contributing to our development. Here are just some of the recent projects we have supported.

Agents of Change
Told through the voices of past student activists and organizers, Agents of Change looks at a pivotal moment when our nation was caught at the intersection of the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Anti-Vietnam War Movements. The film examines the racial conditions on college campuses across the U.S., focusing on two seminal protests: San Francisco State in 1968 and Cornell University in 1969.

National broadcast on February 20, check your local listings here

Vanishing Point: The 3.9 Art Collective Reflects On Black Communities in San Francisco
With increasing gentrification in the twenty-first century, the African-American population of San Francisco is increasingly marginalized and invisible. Vanishing Point was  an exhibition and public program series that explored proposals for the survival of black people and artists in the city and sought  to open a public conversation about black history and the future of its black populations. The project also included a series of dinners with members of the predominately black communities of Bayview/Hunter’s Point, The Fillmore/Western Addition, culminating in a final event at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco encouraging participants to share  memories, stories, and recipes. .   

Circling Back: Black Farmers in California
A mobile art and historical photography exhibit  installed in accessible public venues, including the Oakland Farmers Market, provided opportunities for the community to learn about the history of African American farming, experience art, and consider and discuss a variety of topics including food policy, health and well-being, environmental stewardship, and careers in agriculture and sustainable practices. Presenters shared first-hand experiences and knowledge to educate, inspire and empower attendees. 

The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Summer of Love
The summer of 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco. In commemoration of this historic moment, a major outreach, public engagement and artistic collaboration led by the DeYoung Museum, California Historical Society, San Francisco Arts Commission and SF Travel engaged  more than 50 institutions in presenting programming and exhibitions. As part of this celebration, Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)  presented a six-part film and discussion series exploring the influence of black culture on the counter culture of the time and its subsequent influence on art and popular culture. 

Montford Point Marines of San Diego
This project was an intergenerational oral history/performance that connected San Diego Unified students with African American veterans, in order to conduct  research and create public programs about the lives and experiences of the young African American men, who willingly put their lives on the line, as members of  the first African-American USMC unit. This project sought to answer many questions, among them; what in their make-up inspired them to not only to answer the call to military duty but also, on many occasions, to perform beyond the standards established by their white counterparts? Learn more about these brave men here.

Harlem of the West
San Francisco’s Fillmore District was once a thriving, integrated neighborhood and a center of the city’s African American cultural life. But by the 1960s, the community virtually vanished due to one of the largest redevelopment projects in the country. The history of this iconic neighborhood is now documented through a robust website, featuring both previously collected and new interviews, photos, audio recordings, and other materials, that will enable the community to tell its own story. The project helped increase public understanding of how redevelopment ended one of the most diverse and vibrant entertainment districts west of the Mississippi and what values are at stake when neighborhoods face change.

Join California Historical Society and Elizabeth Pepin Silva and Lewis Watts, the authors of the powerful Harlem of the West SF Project for a presentation of images and discussion of the history of the Harlem of the West on February 22nd 6-8pm. The authors will also take questions from the audience.

Negro Motorist Green Book: Documenting Stories and Sites in Los Angeles
During the era of Jim Crow, many African Americans relied on this “Bible of Black Travel” to navigate safe passage and find sustenance and respite while on the road. This oral history and photodocumentary project seeks to identify and interview individuals who are connected to historic sites of refuge in Los Angeles – hotels, motels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses. These stories, presented through public programs, an interactive website, and a book, document a little known chapter in California history and provide opportunities to re-examine America’s troubled history of race relations. You can read an interview conducted by California Humanities with Candacy Taylor, project director of this project here.

Learn more about Black History Month here.

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