There Was A Time When Black Men, Too Earned Wealth Easily

gold bar
Alyssa Guznik
January 28, 2023

The 1800s weren't pleasant for most of our people in the U.S. There was, however, a bastion of hope. Oddly enough, it was found in the severe, gold-laden mountains of California.

The 1849 California gold rush saw some 4,000 African Americans flocking to seek their fortune in gold mining. Not yet a state, the place was considered a more "free" area for migrants and the formerly enslaved. 

Chiefly composed of men, Black 49ers created havens for Black Americans.

Few made their fortunes in gold. Most wound up building wealth by operating merchant and trading posts. One of the earliest mining settlements was a Black settlement known as Negro Bar in Sacramento county. As mining in that area dried up, many moved north and created a new town.

Negro Hill and Massachusetts flat were permanent mining towns founded by African Americans. Almost everything was either owned by or frequented by Black miners. This allowed the miners, at least for a time, to continue to build wealth.

Whites tried to and mostly succeeded in running many free Black men out of California during the remaining years of the gold rush. That didn't stop those free Black men from earning their fortunes. Try as they might, racists couldn't take that away from them, and they won’t take our ambition away from us, either.

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