Black California is the first comprehensive anthology celebrating black writing through almost two centuries of Californian history. In a patchwork quilt pieced from poetry, fiction, essays, drama, and memoirs, this anthology traces the trajectory of African American writers. Each piece gives a voice to the resonating rhythms that created the African American literary tradition in California. These voices speak of dreams and disasters, of heroic achievements and tragic failures, of freedom and betrayal, of racial discrimination and subsequent restoration all setting the pulse of the black California experience.
Early works include a letter written by Pao Pico, the last Mexican governor of California; an excerpt from mountain man, freed slave, and honorary Crow Indian James Beckwourth; and a poem written by James Madison Bell and recited to a public gathering of black people commemorating the death of President Lincoln. More recent contributions include pieces from beat poets Ted Joans and Bob Kaufman, Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, comedian Brian Copeland, and feminists Lucille Clifton and June Jordan.