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2022 Africa Unity Week - highlighting the "African Founding Father of California"
by Khubaka, Michael Harris
Discover the Maritime Legacy of the "African Founding Father of California" as master of the ship Julia Ann, trading throughout the Pacific Rim and became the leading financial figure in the development of San Francisco. Leidesdorff aquired a 35,521 acre called Rancho Rio De Los Americanos from the Mexican Government while acquiring a vast array of international business pursuits throughout the Pacific Rim. The 1849 historic town of Negro Bar, Sacramento County is poised for global consideration by the World Conference of Mayors.
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Ambassador Dawson shares, "many publications identify Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, minister to Haiti from 1869-1877, as "America's first black diplomat" however, Leidesdorff preceded Bassett by almost a quarter of a century."
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Ambassador Horace G. Dawson, Jr., Ph.D., founding director of the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center, Howard University, Washington D.C. wrote a wonderful article in the Foreign Service Journal entitled, "First African American Diplomat" sharing a wonderful golden legacy of William Alexander Leidesdorff, later recognized as the "African Founding Father of California" by the California State Legislature, via Assembly Concurrent Resolution 131 (Cox) 2004.

In his 1993 article, Ambassador Dawson shares, "many publications identify Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, minister to Haiti from 1869-1877, as "America's first black diplomat" however, Leidesdorff preceded Bassett by almost a quarter of a century."

In 1987, Dr. Martha S. Putney, a well-respected authority on geography and history, authored Black Sailors: African American Merchant Seamen and Whalemen Prior to the Civil War contributes in her the major works about the climate of U.S. Maritime history very inclusive of Black Sailors in the Age of Sail.

Today, building upon primary documentation and painstakingly difficult research we are poised to show the year 1790, a milestone in the Haitian Revolution and 1790 Spanis Census in California as world events that forever changed the Caribbean Basin, Alta California or New Spain and the United States of America.

Historical records indicate that the Leidesdorff family migrated from Denmark and Cuba to meet in French, New Orleans. With the winds of change and Louisiana Purchase, the loving couple resettled to Spring Garden Estate on the Danish Virgin Island of St. Croix. William was the eldest child of parents who were of African Cuban and Danish Jewish ancestry.
Anna Marie Spark, mother of two son's, three daughters and William Alexander Leidesdorff, Sr. who was reported to be St. Croix's island veterinarian. They lived there lives together as a "married couple" under existing Danish law, baptizing all the children in Lutheran Church, in Christiansted, Virgin Island.

William Alexander Leidesdorff, Jr., was reportedly educated in Flensburg, Denmark and later naturalized as a U.S. Citizen, and a very successful ship captain operating out of the Port of New Orleans, sailing throughout the Caribbean Basin and beyond.

The Negro Seamen Acts and mysterious tragic death of his fiancé' ended his tenure on Valentine's Day, 1838 at the Port of New Orleans.

After finishing his final voyage in New Orleans and visiting Washington D.C. to clear his good name at the U.S. Treasury Department, he relocated to the Port of New York preparing for a voyage to the Pacific Rim.

In 1841, we find Leidesdorff as master of the ship Julia Ann, trading throughout the Pacific Rim and became the leading financial figure in the development of San Francisco. He then in 1844, acquired a 35,521 acre called Rancho Rio De Los Americanos from the Mexican Government while acquiring a vast array of international business pursuits throughout the Pacific Rim.

His close business association with John Coffin Jones, Jr and Thomas O. Larkin, Jr., both U.S. Consular in Hawaii and California respectively, helped facilitate "manifest destiny" of U.S. land acquisition carried out during U.S. President James Polk administration.

The very timely recruitment of the first "African American" Diplomat in U.S. History helped to facilitate the creation of the State of California. His official government report of California Bear Flag Revolt beginning in June 1846 in Sacramento County documents the essential role Sacramento Valley played in U.S. History.

Today, Leidesdorff Plaza, is a shell of the earlier tributes, today the heart of Historic Folsom Station retains only a small plaque that was dedicated in 1966 by the Negro Museum and Library Association of Sacramento, led by Mr. Joe Larson.
Leidesdorff Plaza once featured a majestic fountain, tranquil park benches that accented a very unique concentration of historical markers highlighting U.S. History, adding significance to Historic Folsom Station of the Sacramento Valley Railroad, first railroad west of the Mississippi River.

Today, Leidesdorff Plaza, will once again become a central focus as part of the unique Sacramento Regional transportation development project, Folsom Station, a fitting location for the rebirth of the California Underground Railroad Network to Freedom as part of 2022 Africa Unity Week, May 22-29, 2022.

Visit http://www.africaunityweek.com and see the wonderful updates as we journey to San Diego Maritime Month and do our part to host the World Conference of Mayors along the San Diego Waterfront.
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