John William Templeton finds African American history in places like Yosemite, Nob Hill and Beverly Hills

Your guide to Black history, John William Templeton, points to one of his books, “Come to the Water,” in a National Park Service centennial library display.
Your guide to Black history, John William Templeton, points to one of his books, “Come to the Water,” in a National Park Service centennial library display.

Head of the educational television network ReUNION: Education-Arts-Heritage, the sleuth, John William Templeton, is bringing vacationers along for the ride during a mapping expedition for the California African American Freedom Trail in July.

The first part is a special tour of “Famous Names of Bayview” Saturday, July 2, leaving from Sam Jordan’s, 4004 Third St.

High ratings for series like “Underground” and “Roots” plus the excitement from the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture betray a new wave of interest in Black heritage, as millennials find themselves confronting racism in everything from police stops to search queries.

“There is no substitute for being armed with cultural mastery,” Templeton, who has 6,000 sites to review across the Golden State, said. “However, most of the story is yet to be told.”

Templeton’s finds in the past year include 23,000 photos and three endangered works by a Harlem Renaissance era artist.

The first part is a special tour of “Famous Names of Bayview” Saturday, July 2, leaving from Sam Jordan’s, 4004 Third St.

What’s surprising is the centrality of the Black experience, which leads to unexpected experiences like the statue of Capt. William Alexander Leidesdorff in the midst of San Francisco’s Financial District or the Pio Pico State Park just outside Los Angeles. NBC Bay Area featured his SF Soul Shuttle daily tours during February.

“Before the Gold Rush, the two richest men in California were both Black,” Templeton noted. “That opens up a host of other questions that the Trail is designed to answer.”

After writing “Our Roots Run Deep: The Black Experience in California,” Vols. 1-4 in 1991, Templeton began a quarter century quest to preserve the heritage, including exhibits in the Historic State Capitol, Fairmont Hotel, California Academy of Sciences, Tech Museum of Innovation and Los Angeles Central Library. Last December, he took the National Black Caucus of State Legislators on a tour of the Black experience in Los Angeles.

“Before the Gold Rush, the two richest men in California were both Black,” Templeton noted. “That opens up a host of other questions that the Trail is designed to answer.”

“The Obama family went in the footsteps of Buffalo Soldiers who patrolled Yosemite in the 19th century,” he notes.

Two years ago, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors endorsed the trail, as did the State Historical Resources Commission last year. Findings from the expedition will be shown this school year in instructional programs and highlighted at the eighth Preserving California Black Heritage conference on Sept. 10 at S.G. Maritime National Historical Park.

For more information, visit californiablackhistory.com.