By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer
Les Robinson grew up in Sacramento but knew nothing about his great-great-great grandfather Daniel Blue and his significant place in California history until three years ago.
Blue helped establish St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal in downtown Sacramento. It is the oldest AME church west of the Mississippi River and the oldest Black church in California.
Robinson, the current head football coach at Trinity Classical Academy in Santa Clarita, will share Blue’s story at the church Sunday, Nov. 13.
“My subject that day is ‘The Legacy Continues,’ the African American legacy, and how it relates to the Bible,” Robinson said. “I am going to talk about my grandfather’s legacy, which was a legacy of love. It was not just a legacy for Black people but a legacy of love for all people.”
Daniel Blue was a prominent Sacramento resident. He had been enslaved in Kentucky and arrived in Sacramento in 1849 on a wagon train. He was forced to mine for gold but eventually was liberated, Robinson said.
Blue gained wealth mining for gold on the Sacramento River. His fortunes allowed him to open a laundry. He and his wife started a school for Black, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American children in the basement of their house. “He educated the ones the Whites did not want to educate or go to school with,” Robinson said. “His heart was for people, not just African American people. That to me depicts the love and DNA of God. I am going to reference that and how we were all created in the image and likeness of God.”
St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church is a historical congregation predating California statehood. The church, first named the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, was started by a small group of early Black settlers in the Sacramento area, who in 1850 gathered at the home of Blue.
St. Andrews’ first pastor was John Fitzgerald. In 1851, the name was changed to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church took its present name later in the 19th century.
In 1951 a newly built structure at Eighth and V streets was dedicated right across the street from Southside Park. Robinson said he managed the park and pool for six years.
The original church site on Seventh Street between G and H streets was declared a state historical landmark Jan. 27, 1995, by the California State Historical Landmarks Commission. A newly constructed education building at the current location was dedicated the next day.
In November 1855, the church hosted the California Colored Citizens, the first statewide convention aimed at putting forth strategies and laws to advance the rights of all people. Robinson will provide these details, how he learned about Blue, and more historical aspects of the church when he gives his sermon at St. Andrews.
“We should be loving each other in every way possible and through the generations. We have not learned to do that,” Robinson said. “But it seems to me that this generation today can promote the love of God, the unconditional love of God for man.”
Robinson’s speaking engagement starts at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 13. St. Andrews AME is at 2131 Eighth St. For more information, call 916-448-1428.