Blacks in Gold Rush California


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Rudolph M. Lapp

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By 1860, twelve years after the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, more than five thousand American blacks had made the difficult trek to California in search of quick wealth. The part that they played in this epic adventure has been too long ignored. Here for the first time Rudolph Lapp pieces together in a coherent and fascinating narrative this missing chapter of American history.

Rudolph M. Lapp is professor of history emeritus at the College of San Marco in California.

"[This] book is important both for it wealth of detail as well as for its broad portrait of a minority group."—Library Journal

"Lapp's pioneering study adds greatly to our knowledge of the gold rush and to our understanding of the antebellum black community in California."—Peter N. Carroll, The American West

"A solid account of black forty-niners who went West to seek their fortune. Much detail is given to their life in mining communities and their relationships with other minorities and with whites."—The Washington Post

"Students of black history will be grateful to Rudolph M. Lapp because his picture of California between the Gold Rush and the outbreak of the Civil War provides a most useful variation of the general picture of black-white relations outside the South in that period."—Hugh Brogan, Times Literary Supplement

"The whole story of the black pioneers inthe American West is enriched by this careful analysis of those 5,000 hardy men and women who made their way to California during the gold rush decade. . . . Lapp describes their wide range of activities, among them the formation of protest organizations and the operation of mining companies, bringing to the fore their more conspicuous figures, notably inthe field of business. If Lapp's own patient digging took him off the beaten paths, it was worth it—he struck a mother lode of his own."—Benjamin Quarles, Department of History, Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD)

"We must add this volume to the growing list of important literature on historical black society too long ignored. As gold rush history, the work is also superb."—Arizona & the West

"Blacks in Gold Rush California will serve as a standard of measure for other western historical studies, ethnic or otherwise, and the author should be encouraged to continue his investigations."—James Abajan, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

"This study does a great deal to fill a void in a field where so little has been done. It has brought together the author's many years of study and is both well-researched and well-written. . . . The book is a genuine contribution to the history of the American West and to the history of California. It fills a definite need and will be indispensible to those interested in this aspect of history. It should be on the shelf of anyone interested in black history in the United States."—W. Sherman Savage, Southern California Quarterly

"Blacks in Gold Rush California is an important contribution to the recovery of the history of blacks in the West, a process that will lead someday to a re-evaluation of the frontier in American culture."—The Annals of Iowa

"The book, a seminal work on a limited topic, will undoubtedly prove to be a mine for future writers of black history. It should be of interest not only to those concerned with the economic motives of Americans in gold rush days, but to everyone who would appreciate a scholarly treatment of a fascinating topic until now waiting to be told."—Ernest S. Smeeney, Business History Review

"Rudolph M. Lapp . . . has produced a book which will reward the general reader and which deserves the immediate notice of scholars in black and western history. Employing wide-ranging and close research into a multitude of sources, Professor Lapp has reconstructed the history of several thousand blacks who arrived in California, most of them during the gold rush, in the years before the Civil War. It is, indeed, a fascinating history, fast paced, and abundant with insights into the aspirations, experiences and achievements of these early and overlooked settlers. . . . Professor Lapp's book reaffirms the complexity of Negro life in America. For that it deserves wide notice."—James Brewer Stewart, History

"Teachers of California history, black history, and the American West should welcome this book. . . . Blacks in Gold Rush California is a serious, scholarly appraisal of what blacks actually did in California instead of what was being done to them. . . . This is a story that needs to be told because, as Lapp states, 'they made history.' His narrative is easy to read. his research is thorough, and his perspective is intelligent."—Choice

"Blacks in Gold Rush California is a significant contribution to the understanding of California social history. It documents the brave efforts of Gold Rush blacks to gain civil respect and dignity and thus illuminates a quest for social justice that is an important part of this state's heritage."—Charles Wollenberg, California Historical Quarterly

"A major contribution to the history of blacks on the frontier. . . . An impressive piece of scholarship and model for further studies of western black history."—Lawrence B. de Graaf, Western Historical Quarterly

"Students of Black history, Californian historians, scholars and history buffs all owe Rudolph Lapp a debt of gratitude. He has performed a valuable and long-needed service in collecting, authenticating, and organizing into a well arranged and cohesive account those scattered, conflicting and fragmentary bits and pieces of facts of which all Black history seems to consist. Since Blacks have been in California since the earliest days and have always played a significant role in its history, this title sould be considered a must for all California history collections in academic and large public libraries."—Virginia L. Struhsaker, The Pacific Historian

"[Lapp] deserves full credit for amassing the proof and for creating belated awareness of the role of blacks in California's first decade of statehood. . . . [A] much needed and excellent book."—John Caughey, Pacific Historical Review

Thoroughly researched, intelligently organized, and effectively presented."—Kenneth Wiggins Porter, American Historical Review

Winner of the 1979 California Historical Society Award of Merit
ISBN: 9780300065459
Publication Date: September 27, 1995
336 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
17 b/w illus.
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