Slavery in Oregon and California

Oregon was less hospitable to blacks than many of them had hoped. The territorial legislature passed laws prohibiting admission to black settlers, even though exceptions were made on individual petition. When Oregon was admitted to the union in 1857, a Free Negro Admission Article was proposed for the state’s constitution. but it was defeated, and the small number of blacks who had made their way to Oregon lived uneasily until the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

California, on the other hand, outlawed slavery within its boundaries in 1850 because miners feared the appearance of slave labor. The mines soon became places where an exotic mixture of races and nationalities shouldered one another in the feverish search for wealth. Mary Ballou wrote home that she lived in a mining camp caUed “Negro Bar,” where “French and Duch and Scoth and Jews and Italions and Sweeds and Chineese and Indians” were all panning for gold. Even before the discovery of gold. California had been settled by men and women of Mexican, lndian, and African descent. Eighteen percent of the population, according to a Spanish census of 1790, were of other than Anglo-American origin. By 1849, San Francisco blacks had formed a “mutual Benefit and Relief Society” of their own. By 1854, that city had three black churches, and within the next decade there were three black newspapers and as many black churches.