Santa Cruz County History - Cultural Diversity

To Know My Name: A Chronological History of African Americans in Santa Cruz County
by Phil Reader


Major Local Resources for African American History

Most of the following resource pools are of a general nature, but a patient researcher can abstract a tremendous amount of historical and genealogical data from their files.

Santa Cruz County Government Center
701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, CA

  • County Recorder's Office: Vital Records (Births, Marriages, Deaths), Land Records and Maps.
  • Clerk of the Superior Court: Wills and Probates.
  • Board of Supervisors: Board Minutes and Actions.

Santa Cruz Public Library, Downtown Branch
224 Church Street, Santa Cruz, CA.

  • California History and Genealogy Room
    Hundreds of volumes on California history and U. S. genealogy, U. S. Censuses: Several rolls containing Santa Cruz County enumerations: 1850 to 1920. Genealogy section contains five "How to" booklets on Black genealogical research. Area newspapers on microfilm from 1854 to present. One video tape copy of the 1989 P.B.S. Special on the life of ex-Santa Cruz resident Ida B. Wells.

Watsonville Public Library
310 Union Street, Watsonville, CA

  • Stacks contain several books on California African America history. Watsonville newspapers on microfilm from 1868 to present.

McHenry Library
University of California at Santa Cruz,
Santa Cruz, CA

  • Stacks contain numerous volumes on Black history and culture, of vital importance are the works and autobiography of former Santa Cruz resident Ida B. Wells. Map Room has large collection Santa Cruz County history, including many indexes. Microform Room has U. S. Censuses (Santa Cruz and Monterey County rolls) and area newspapers on microfilm from 1854 to present. Special Collections also has large collection of local history.

History Museum of Santa Cruz County
705 Front Street, Santa Cruz, CA

  • Archives and Research Center has numerous personal files, journals, reminisces. records, newspapers, photos, research collections, etc. Mostly north county material.

Pajaro Valley Historical Association
261 East Beach Street, Watsonville, CA

  • Archives and Research Center has photo collections, diaries, research files, family memorabilia, newspaper clippings, vital and cemetery records, etc. Pajaro Valley and south county only.

Santa Cruz Sentinel
207 Church Street, Santa Cruz, CA

  • Library has large collection of newspaper clippings. Most valuable for recent local Black history: 1964 to present.

Out of County Resource Centers

United States National Archives and Records Center
Pacific Coast Regional Branch
Commodore Drive, San Bruno, CA

  • For Black history and genealogical research, the National Archives have all U.S. Censuses, including slave schedules. Military and pension records for African Americans who served in any branch of the Armed Services from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. Also some Freedman's Bureau Field Office records.

Sutro Library
California State Library
Winston Avenue, San Francisco, CA

  • A branch of the state library specializing in genealogy. State, county, and local histories, vital records, surname and locality files. Stacks contain dozens of books on Black history from California and all over the United States. Also a Black newspaper collection. Most importantly, Sutro has the three volume set of James de T. Abajian's "Blacks in Selected Newspapers, Censuses and Other Sources." A masterwork in Black history indexing.

Oakland Public Library
Lake Merritt Drive, Oakland, CA

  • Local History Room has a large collection of African American oriental material. Vertical files on individuals, families, and groups. Serial and Newspaper Room have vast accumulation of 19th and 20th century Black newspapers on microfilm.

Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

  • The largest California history collection in existence. Contains a vast amount of material on African American pioneers. Also has a major collection of Negro newspapers. Houses the James de T. Abajian Collection consisting of 56 boxes of scrapbooks, note books, card files, etc.

Northern California Center for Afro American History and Life
5606 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, CA

  • A private library, archives, and museum dedicated, as its title suggests, to the history and culture of African Americans in Northern California. Has a large collection of printed material, memorabilia and photos, also a section on Blacks in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

A Thumbnail Bibliography:
Locally Available Books on the History of Blacks in California

Beasley, Delilah L.

The Negro Trail Blazers of California Los Angeles, 1919. A pioneering work in the field of regional Black History.

Dunn, Geoffrey

Santa Cruz is in the Heart, Capitola Book Company, Capitola 1988. Dunn, in this fascinating look at Santa Cruziana, dedicates two chapters to local African American subjects.

Goode, Kenneth G.

California's Black Pioneers, McNally & Liftin, Santa Barbara, 1974. A brief introduction to the subject.

Graves-Gray, Kreta.

History of the Santa Cruz County N.A.A.C.P. n.p., Santa Cruz, 1979. An account of the founding and first thirty years of the local branch organization. Great local history.

Haley, Alex

Roots: The Saga of an American Family Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York, 1976. A fictionalized account of Haley's family history. Popular novel and television series. Not California history, just a good story.

Lapp, Rudolph

Blacks in the California Gold Rush, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1977. In this outstanding volume Professor Lapp has produced the most comprehensive work to date.

Afro-Americans in California Boyd & Fraser Publishing Co.. 1987. Prof. Lapp extends his work up to contemporary times.

Steinbeck, John

Travels with Charley MacMillan Company Publishers, New York. 1962. In one chapter, Steinbeck writes about his friendship with the Cooper family of Watsonville and Salinas.

Thurman. A. Odell

The Negro in California before 1890, R & E Research Associates, 1973. A brief guide to 19th century Blacks in California.

Thurman, Sue Bailey

Pioneers of Negro Origin in California, Acme Publishing Company. San Francisco, 1952. Biographies, records, photos and history make up this splendid look at Negro history. Included is a chapter on Dan Rodgers.

Wells, Ida B.

Crusade for Justice, The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells. A Phoenix Book, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1970. The story of one of the great figures in African American History. Wells was a Santa Cruz resident during the early 1890s.

Back to the Introduction.

Copyright 1995 Phil Reader. Reproduced with the permission of the author. Photographs courtesy of Phil Reader.

View similarly tagged articles:

African Americans, racism


It is our continuing goal to make available a selection of articles on various subjects and places in Santa Cruz County. Certain topics, however, have yet to be researched. In other cases, we were not granted permission to use articles. The content of the articles is the responsibility of the individual author. It is the Library's intent to provide accurate local history information. However, it is not possible for the Library to completely verify the accuracy of individual articles obtained from a variety of sources. If you believe that factual statements in a local history article are incorrect and can provide documentation, please contact the Webmaster.