Need to get away? Here are weekly tips on places to visit outside the Sacramento area.
While most of the battles of the Civil Rights Movement raged in the streets and businesses of America’s Southeast, California has hosted its share of African American history.
This is the birthplace, after all, of the Black Panther Party as well as the site of the Rodney King and Watts riots. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X spoke here, and a wide range of influential black writers, movie makers and musicians grew up in the state.
History-minded travelers can honor Black History Month by visiting some of the spots in California where African Americans sought, in their way, to reach the promised land that King spoke of.
In the Central Valley, the remnants of the town of Allensworth still stand more than a century after slave-turned-U.S. Army chaplain-turned-businessman Col. Allen Allensworth created a self-sufficient agrarian community there for people of color. Now known as the Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, the spot just south of Delano holds nine restored period buildings that offer a hint of the town’s past.
Another chapter in black history was written in Oakland, when Bobby Seale, Huey Newton and other young black activists founded the Black Panther Party. Preaching black pride, economic self-determination and a militant defense of African American communities, the party outraged mainstream America even while inspiring others with its confrontational message.
Much of that history remains in gentrifying North Oakland, and former Black Panthers have been known to lead tours through those old blocks. Even without those tours, the audio guide app Detour provides a self-guided walking tour of Panther history. The Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St., 510-318-8400) has also opened a major exhibition about the Black Panthers running through Feb. 26.
Finally, the cultural contributions of Africans worldwide are showcased at the Museum of the African Diaspora (685 Mission St., San Francisco, 415-358-7200), just around the corner from the massive new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A rotating lineup of exhibits highlight paintings, photography and other works by African and African American artists.
If you’re in the mood for more African American history, check out the powerful new documentary about writer James Baldwin. “I Am Not Your Negro” is playing around the Bay Area and is set to open in Nevada City, Fresno and Modesto, although not yet in Sacramento. As Baldwin’s searing words remind us, this history is still being written, and the struggles being honored this month continue.
Tattoos and blues
What: Live blues bands, tattoo artists and fire dancers will fill the 26th annual Tattoos & Blues festival.
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 through Sunday, Feb. 26
Where: Flamingo Conference Resort and Spa, 2777 Fourth St., Santa Rosa
Cost: $20 general admission; $35 weekend pass
What: The Zinfandel Experience festival features more than 250 California wineries and offers food tastings throughout San Francisco.
When: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 through Saturday, Feb. 25
Where: Various locations in San Francisco, including One Market at 1 Market St. and Pier 27.
Cost: $70 to $315
What: Sample delicious chowder and stroll along the beach at the the Clam Chowder Cook-off festival in Santa Cruz.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 and Sunday, Feb. 26
Where: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach St.