On Tuesday, February 7, the City Council declared February 2023 "Black Resistance Month." In part, the proclamation reads: "by resisting, Black people have achieved triumphs, successes, and progress as seen in the end of chattel slavery, dismantling of Jim and Jane Crow segregation in the South, increased political representation at all levels of government, desegregation of educational institutions, the passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964, the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History in DC and increased and diverse representation of Black experiences in media." You can read the full proclamation here.
In recognition of Black History Month and Black Resistance, the City of Woodland is proud to celebrate the following Black Woodlanders and institutions:
Basil “Baaz” Campbell (1823 – 1905)
Basil “Baaz” Campbell came to California as an enslaved person in 1854 and some claim that he and his brother, Elijah Jennings, were the first African Americans in Yolo County. In 1861, he bought his freedom and began his own farm in Woodland, the Campbell Farm. By 1884, he was the largest Black landowner in Yolo County. The land that he owned is now the Cache Creek Nature Preserve. His agriculture business was so successful that Campbell’s total wealth grew to over $100,000. Campbell’s success story spread in African American-owned newspapers throughout the nation and influenced Black migrations from states like Ohio, Arkansas, and Kentucky. Campbell often helped these migrants, as well as his own brother, become successful in Yolo County.
During this time, Campbell was also involved in politics and activism. In 1874, Campbell was elected to the State Convention of Colored People. He was chosen as the California state delegate to attend the National Convention of Colored People in Washington D.C. Although California was a free state, Campbell was forced to navigate intense discrimination that discouraged minorities from owning land. Additionally, most African American business figures succeeded economically through mining-related businesses. Therefore, Campbell’s economic success in agricultural and political activism are particularly noteworthy and of importance to remember as a historical Black figure in Woodland.
Bill Petty, Civil Rights Advocate (1924 – 2016)
After serving in World War II, Bill Petty moved to Woodland. He and his wife faced housing discrimination and were disappointed by the lack of promising jobs available to Black people. This compelled Bill to become an accomplished civil rights advocate. He served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of California. In 1994, he worked alongside a white Mason to lay the cornerstone of the Yolo County Central Library, marking a first for local white and black Masons. This was the accomplishment he was most proud of, as he stated “Now, after over one hundred years of being separate, we are one body and recognize each other equally.”
Petty was also the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Official at McClellan Air Force Base. During this time, he earned the Air Force Distinguished EEO Award and the Aguila Unity Award, the highest honor given by the Latino Community Council to a non-Mexican for his “responsible empowerment of the community.” Petty served as the first African American on a Yolo County Grand Jury and brought lawsuits against local officials for discrimination. After retirement, he was the Chief Volunteer for Yolo County Coalition Against Hunger and was appointed to Yolo County’s Affirmative Action Committee in 1973 to create the county’s first Affirmative Action Plan. He also played a key role in Guinda’s annual Black History Day and Multicultural Day. Bill Petty is remembered as a leading civil rights advocate who fought endlessly for minorities and women in Yolo and Sacramento counties.
Greater Second Baptist Church
In 1894, three African American women – Mary Francis Gaither, Sophie Raymus, and Mary Belle Padmore – founded the Greater Second Baptist Church. Gaither was a midwife and cleaned for Esparto High School, where her son, Elmer, was the first Black graduate. When founding the church, Gaither and Raymus were around 30 years old, while Padmore, Sophie’s daughter, was just ten years old. At the time, it was the first and only African American church in Yolo County. Pioneering African American families in Yolo County made up the congregation, some who settled here as early as 1849.
Gaither, Raymus, and Padmore began gathering people for regular Bible study wherever they could until settling into the original church building on 4th and Lincoln. After a few years, they moved to an old YMCA building on 2nd Street. In 1899, G.W. Gray moved his family to Woodland and became the Church’s first pastor. In 1911, the Church moved to its current location at 435 2nd St. Despite a fire destroying the building in the 1970s, the Church was rebuilt and still stands today. The Church is a pillar of the Woodland community and has been hailed by the Daily Democrat as “central to local Black history.” This year, the Church will celebrate its 129th year of worship and community for Yolo County’s African American residents.