Since 1976 February has been officially designated each year as Black History Month. Antioch, traditionally, honors Black History Month with the exceptional exhibit organized and curated by Dr. Carrie Frazier, a long-time Antioch, and East County resident. Due to COVID, an open exhibit for the general public is not suggested. Residents are encouraged however, to learn about local history and meet the African American leaders that are working hard today to enhance everyone’s quality of life.
Black History Month dates back to 1926, and the month of February was selected for this distinction to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In Antioch, there was an ordinance that did not allow black residents to remain in town after dusk. Cities and towns with such ordinances were known as sundown cities.
Thomas Gaines was a former slave who came to Antioch and worked as a laborer. He was the only African American resident in Antioch, and although there was the “sundown” ordinance he lived in a brick shack on the waterfront. In February of 1875 he became a member of the First Congregational Church and was highly regarded around town. On February 9, 2016, Mayor Wade Harper recognized Thomas Gaines with the key to the City and declared February 9th Thomas Gaines day during Black History Month.
Today, Antioch celebrates a rich heritage and diversity. Reggie Moore was the first African American elected to City Council in 2006, and Supervisor Federal Glover noted that his election was a watershed event that acknowledged Antioch’s changing diversity. Wade Harper was the first African American Mayor, elected in 2012. Monica Wilson is serving as the first African American woman on City Council, and Lamar Thorpe begins his term as Mayor. There are many opportunities for all residents to be involved in the community, start by volunteering at an event!