Sharon McGriff-Payne has spent the past three years of this first decade of the 21st Century mesmerized by African Americans from the 19th Century, especially the insistent voice of John Grider. Grider captured McGriff-Payne's imagination and guided her to mine largely neglected archives to unearth and compile the stories of African Americans in California's North Bay counties of Solano, Napa, and Sonoma from the 1840s through the 1920s.
Grider, a former slave, Bear Flag veteran, and hardworking everyman has inspired McGriff-Payne's research. The indomitable Miss Delilah L. Beasley has also inspired the author. Her 1919 book, The Negro Trail Blazers of California, preserved the names and deeds of many of the North Bay's African American pioneers. John Grider's Century seeks to add those black voices to California's larger historical narrative, with the message, "We were here!"
"Tell my story," Grider prompted. McGriff-Payne has attempted to fulfill that command and dedicates this volume to him and the other pioneers who founded schools, formed churches and civic organizations, advocated policy, built businesses, raised families and triumphed over daunting odds.