Food History of Napa County, California

My second book, Lost Restaurants of Napa Valley and their Recipes, was published. six months ago today! Like my first book, Hidden History of Napa Valley, it looks the history of marginalized communities in Napa County. However, Lost Restaurants focuses on food history. As I wrote in the preface, this book is concerned with “the people who grew and harvested the ingredients, the cooks who prepared it, the staff who served it, the restaurateur who manages the business, the first people who invented with the original dish, and the people who appropriated it into something else.”

In honor of the six month publication anniversary, I thought I’d post a few excerpts from Lost Restaurants.

Continue reading “Food History of Napa County, California”

Napa’s Black community fought for freedom from the start

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter is new, but the underlying principle is not. Do not wait for the system to change itself, those early Black Napans said. Make the system change.

Resistance goes hand in hand with Blackness, just as condemning those who resist often goes hand in hand with anti-Blackness. Since the first enslaved Africans were brought to American shores, Black people have pushed back against systematic oppression. The enslaved rebelled against slaveholders and ran away from plantations. The free fought for the right to vote and the right to live free and in any neighborhood they wanted…

Read the rest of this op-ed in the Napa Valley Register.

Learn more about the history of Napa’s marginalized communities in my two books: Hidden History of Napa Valley and Lost Restaurants of Napa Valley and Their Recipes.

Black History in Napa County, California

In light of everything going on, I decided to offer an excerpt of my chapter on Black history in Napa County, California, from my book Hidden History of Napa Valley, out 2019. I did extensive research for this chapter and it covers 1846-1940. This chapter is not a meditation on The Struggle (TM), but a celebration of Black culture, traditions, and survival.

In April 2020, my second book, Lost Restaurants of Napa Valley and their Recipes, was published. Like Hidden History, it also looks the history of marginalized communities in Napa County, but it focuses on food history.

If you can, please buy my books through an independent book store. And if you’re not Black and in need of some anti-racist resources, there are a ton available on twitter.

Continue reading “Black History in Napa County, California”

My Book Is Finally Published!


Well friends, it’s here. My first book Hidden History of Napa Valley is out in the world. I’m so fucking proud of this book and can’t wait for you to read it.

The beginnings of this book came out of my MA US History thesis on the Black history of Napa County entitled “There Are No Black People”: A History of African Americans in Napa County (excerpts from which can be found on the Napa County Historical Society blog). In turn, that thesis was inspired directly from my own existence as one of only a few hundred African Americans living in Napa in the 1980s-2000s. For most of my life in Napa, the only other Black people I interacted with on a daily basis were my mother and a few schoolmates. Growing up as a biracial Black girl in a predominately white region was difficult to say the least. Microaggressions were everywhere, although I was fortunate enough to not experience the overt racism some of my other Black friends did. This is not to say that Napa was an awful place to grow up (it very much wasn’t) or that it was more racist than other places (again, it very much wasn’t), but it was hard to always be the token Black kid.

I moved away for college, but kept circling back to my hometown. In 2012 I moved back yet again to run the Napa County Historical Society archives and research library. Soon, I went back to school for my second master’s degree. When I started looking around for possible thesis topics, I found myself wondering when the first African Americans arrived in the county. Nearly all I knew had arrived in the 1960s and 1970s – also known as the Second Great Migration. So I started digging. Back then, everything was still on microfilm, so back to the archives I went. Everyone kept telling me there were no Black people in Napa, that there was no Black history in Napa. But the history told a different story. African Americans were everywhere in the past, living their lives, changing the county in subtle yet important ways.

HiddenHistory-coverAnd the more I dug, the more “forgotten” people I found. Chinese immigrants who toiled in the fields and settled in Chinatowns and built nearly all the infrastructure that today supports one of the most profitable wine industries in the world. Braceros and Mexican migrant workers who picked up where the Chinese left off after the Exclusion Acts and virulent racism drove them away. Indigenous people who survived in the face of untold brutality. Alta Californian rancho owners who saw the land they stole from Indigenous people be stolen from them by Americans. Women who defied gender stereotypes. Innovators who looked beyond wine and winemakers erased from the narrative. There was a whole other side to the story of Napa County that was begging to be told. Hidden History of Napa Valley doesn’t explore all of that buried history, but it is a start. I hope it will inspire others to do their own research and tell their own stories.

Available now at Copperfield’s Books, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other retailers.

I’m doing a number of events and signings – the full list is here.

These are the chapters in the book:

Part I: First People
The Wappo and Southern Patwin.

Part II: Alta California
The ranchos in Napa County, including biographies on Cayetano and Maria Juárez.

Part III: Struggle and Progress
African American history, including biographies.

Part IV: Strangers in a Strange Land
Chinese history, including a biography on Shuck Chan and his family.

Part V: The Bracero Program
Early 20th century Mexican immigrants and Braceros, including biographies.

Part VI: Women’s Work
Biographies on May Howard and Caterina Nichelini.

Part VII: Industry
The first winemaker, John Patchett, and the founding of the Sawyer Tanning Company.

Part VIII: Innovation
The stories of the inventions of the Magnavox Loudspeaker and the boysenberry.

Part IX: Lost and Gone
History of “lost” sites of Monticello and Napa Soda Springs.