Before 1938

 Before 1938    –  Buying on Contract     Covenants  –   Covenant Database   –  East Bakersfield     

    Education    –   Eminent Domain     –     Moving into a Neighborhood   –    Neighborhoods     

 Public Housing   –  Resources    –   Rumford Fair Housing Act     Suburban Expansion   –   Zoning 

Establishing Kern 1866

“Bakersfield to Kernville to Freeman” AAA Map 1920

At the establishment of Kern County, Havilah, CA was the county seat. It originally had about 800 inhabitants. Reports describe Havilah and surrounding areas as well wooded and watered and well adapted to agricultural purposes and also rich in mineral wealth. The area was isolated because “…distance and difficulty of a canyon being walled in by high mountains on three sides…prevented it from being thickly inhabited.” Euro-American settlers were attracted to Havilah because of the prominent river. John C. Fremont, an American-West explorer who was responsible for the killing of hundreds of California indigenous people and later a US senator from California, named the Kern River after Edward M. Kern, a topographer and US Army Captain who accompanied Fremont into the area. Edward M. Kern had also led various US sponsored violent anti-indigenous campaigns in the Sacramento valley in 1847. Mining and resources related to the use of natural resources drove colonization into the area during the 1850s. Thomas Baker, a state assembly member from Tulare, wrote a bill creating the County of Kern, in honor of Edward M. Kern, and Governor John Bigler approved the enactment in 1855. It was not until 1866, that the area had the requirements to form into a county. On August 1, 1866, a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Kern County was held at Havilah for the purpose of organizing the County. Representatives wrote the following in the minutes of the Board of Supervisors for Kern County: “Said meeting being held pursuant to an Act of the Legislature of the State of California, approved April 2nd A. D. 1866, entitled, ‘An Act to create the County of Kern, to define its boundaries and to provide for its organization.’ At which meeting the following proceedings were had.”

The first issue of the Havilah Weekly Courier ran on August 18, 1866. In their salutatory, C.W. Bush, editor, stated that the newspaper was committed to the interests of the county and surrounding areas. He goes on to note, “We believe, and shall so teach, that this is a government of white men, made by white men, for white men and their posterity forever; and shall ever oppose the radical abolition idea of the equality of races and blending of colors.” For 12 weeks, the Havilah Weekly Courier ran “States rights and state remedies– A government of white men or None” on their masthead under the newspaper name. The Havilah Courier changed its masthead on Dec. 29, 1866, to “An advocate of the interests of Kern County and the Principles of Democracy.” The newspaper’s masthead referenced articles published that stated reconstruction as radical, supporting the Southern grievance of the Civil War. The Havilah Weekly Courier was eventually moved to Bakersfield in 1869. The early Kern County articles and public statements were most likely tied to the resistance to the Reconstruction era.
Havilah Weekly Courier, Kern County California, 10-6-1866, page 1
The Library of Congress defines Reconstruction “a period of political crisis and considerable violence. Many white Southerners envisioned a quick reunion in which white supremacy would remain intact in the South.” Reconstruction was planned, with the support of many, to secure thebasic rights of former slaves. The 14th Amendment was passed by the Senate on June 8, 1866, and ratified on July 9, 1868. The 14th Amendment, “Birth Right Citizenship,” extended liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to formerly enslaved people. On February 3, 1870, the Voting Rights Amendment was ratified, having been passed by Congress on February 26, 1869. The Voting Rights Amendment resulted from the 13th Amendment, which set slaves free, and the 14th Amendment, giving citizenship to all US-born. The 15th Amendment is seen as a step in the struggle for equality.
African Americans exercised the right to vote and held office in many Southern states through the 1880s, but in the early 1890s, steps were taken to ensure subsequent “white supremacy.” Literacy tests for the vote, “grandfather clauses” excluding from the franchise all whose ancestors had not voted in the 1860s, and other devices to disenfranchise African Americans were written into the laws of former Confederate states.
The introduction of devices for disenfranchisement were also a main tactic in the Urban North and the American West. The methods for disenfranchisement are commonly referred to “Jim Crow” for Black Americans and “Jaime Crow,” for Hispanic Americans. The tactics and methods for disenfranchisement had widespread effects across racial minorities, including racial violence.
After the ending of reconstruction, the period from 1890 to 1940 is called the “Nadir,” meaning the low point. During the Nadir, segregation increased everywhere, not just in the South. This is not to say that racial minorities did not make progress in the face of resistance to equality.

Real Estate- Before 1938

“Bakersfield Realty and Building Co. is Organized,” Bakersfield Californian, May 14, 1909 page 1

Bakersfield Realty organizations supported race restrictions in housing covenants. This 1909 article announced the organization of the Bakersfield Realty Building Company in 1909 stating, “All lots will be restricted to not less than $1000 dwellings, as well as to members of the Caucasian race, and no saloons will be permitted on the property.” Prior to 1938, home deeds featured racially exclusive language.


In a report conducted by the State of California in 1930 found that there were 24 out of 47 replies that cities had segregated Mexican Districts.
“In addition, other boards cited clauses inserted in deeds and sales contracts calculated to confine Orientals, Mexicans, and Negroes, to certain districts.”

Segregated districts

Mexicans in California; report of Governor C. C. Young’s Mexican Fact Finding Committee, 1930


Here is an example of racially exclusive language used in 1924. This is not to say that housing discrimination did not exist, but that housing was segregated at the individual home level, led by sellers and real estate agents. It is not until after 1938, that racially restrictive covenants are used at large scale for entire tracts, neighborhoods, and blocks. The Bakersfield grant deed reads, “The lands herein conveyed shall never, at any time, be sold to or rented to or occupied by any person not of the white or Caucasian race.” This is an example of a racially exclusive covenant written in a deed.