New history book traces African Americans' migration to Silicon Valley

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As Black History Month draws to a close, a new book details the migration and impact of African-Americans in what is now known as Silicon Valley.

The title of the book is “African Americans of San Jose and Santa Clara County.” The book is an easy read, about 124 pages with lots of pictures, and maps and historical documents.

Over six chapters, it moves from the Black pioneers when Spain controlled the land, all the way to the current Black community. In the first few pages, the book makes the case that Blacks began settling this county as labourers, soldiers, and minors, and that the percentage of Blacks was about 24-percent.

Author Jan Baptist Adkins says about 30 families formed the Pueblo in what is now Downtown San Jose, and that a handful of those people were African-Americans. They eventually married and raised children as they worked as farmers in the area.

Despite the fact that California was a free state during the Civil War, there were still Blacks who came here as slaves, and were later freed.

Adkins says that while the state constitution barred the sale or purchase of slaves, slave owners from other states could come to California, and use their slaves as a form of free labour working in the fields or in mines. But slaves could only be in the state for one to two years, and then would have to be taken out of state. Failure to do some would result in a slave being freed.

Adkins says the first documented case of this was in Santa Clara County, where a judge freed two slaves because their master had kept them in California for more than two years.

Adkins says her book is helpful providing greater understanding of how African-Americans have and continue to impact life in Silicon Valley.