Research about California Trail events and routes is ongoing. The National Park Service (NPS) works cooperatively with scholars, site managers, and others to learn more about trail-related stories and sites. The agency has worked with a number of partners — the Oregon-California Trail Association, universities, museums, historical societies, and other nonprofit entities — on California Trail projects. Through these projects, new historical trail information has been discovered; several buildings have been identified as being thematically-related to the Trail; several outdoor interpretive exhibits have been erected; and new museum exhibits have been developed and are now on display.

If you have a project idea that can add new historical information or challenge existing notions about the trail, contact the National Trails staff.


For those who would like to undertake additional research about the California Trail, many sources are available. Historians can access a sizable number of diaries, journals, and secondary sources on the subject. Some of these are noted on the bibliography.


Available Reports:


Sweet Freedom's Plains: African Americans on the Overland Trails 1841-1869

AUTHOR: Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, PhD.
DATE ACCEPTED: January 31, 2012

Dr. Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, worked with the National Park Service, National Trails Intermountain Region to create this groundbreaking study about the African American emigrant experience on the Oregon, California and Mormon Pioneer national historic trails. Read her engaging study on this little known component of American history.

"African American men, women and children were western pioneers too. Enslaved or free, they were an integral part of the human tide that undertook the long journey across the continent."

"Black people, like their white counterparts, crossed the plains for myriad personal, economic, social, and political reasons. The lure of free land, new business opportunities, and individual autonomy were aspirations shared by both groups."

"Clearly, the lives, hopes, and expectations of nineteenth century black people differed in critical ways from those of white people. As a result, African Americans understood and experienced the westering journey in ways that white emigrants could not. The study of the African American experience on the trails broadens our understanding of the nature, scope, and meaning of westward migration. The experiences of the thousands of black men and women who came west compel us to reconsider the traditional narrative of our nation's history."

Last updated: November 5, 2020

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

National Trails Office Regions 6|7|8
California National Historic Trail
1100 Old Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe, NM 87505

Contact Us