By Velena Jones

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It’s not often you hear California and slavery being mentioned in the same sentence. The truth is the state wasn’t a safe haven for African Americans until a former slave helped put an end to the illegal practice.

Centuries of history live in these walls, but it’s one story filling just a small box inside the Center for Sacramento History that is still impacting lives today.

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“He was a rich man, he founded a church, he made money in the gold mines,” said Kim Hayden, archivist at Center for Sacramento History.

That man was Daniel Blue, a freed slave who liberated another in 1864 — a 12-year-old girl named Edith sold illegally to Sacramento farmer, Walter Gammon.  It’s the last known case of slavery in California, despite being established as a free state in 1850, according to Hayden.

“Southerners would bring their Black slaves here and they would work them here. It wasn’t state-sanctioned, but people turned a blind eye to it,” she explained.

Preserved records show Blue took Gammon to court and filed for guardianship, claiming Gammon was abusing and holding Edith against her will, and the judge agreed.

“He is a really good example of taking action and community and a community coming together, learning about this girl and saving her life,” she said.

Blue’s praises are still being sung at St. Andrews AME Church in Sacramento.

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“That gives us much more to be proud of, I think many people do not know that story,” explained church historian, Patricia Jones-Penn.

Years before freeing Edith, the activist founded the first Black church in California out of his basement in 1850.

“We are the oldest African American Methodist Episcopal church, not only in the Sacramento area but on the Pacific Coast,” explained Jones-Penn.

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A plaque on 7th Street on a now county structure marks where the original church worshiped for more than 100 years. This year they are celebrating their 170th anniversary. Blue’s revolutionary impact is still leaving a lasting legacy

“Because of that moment and time, a seed was planted and the congregation has grown. We carry the spirit with him always,” she said.

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Blue is buried in Sacramento’s East Lawn Memorial Park. His headstone says he was one of the most familiar figures in Sacramento who “lived up to his highest development.”

Velena Jones