Exhibition News – Nathan Harrison: Born a Slave, Died a San Diego Legend

January 9, 2020

Few people in the history of the United States embody ideals of the American Dream more than legendary African American San Diego homesteader Nathan Harrison (d. 1920). Harrison was a freed slave originally from Kentucky who lived in a small cabin on Palomar Mountain, located in northeastern San Diego County, from the 1850s to 1920. His is a story with prominent themes of overcoming staggering obstacles, forging something from nothing, and evincing gritty perseverance. In a lifetime of hard-won progress, Harrison survived the horrors of slavery in the Antebellum South, endured the mania of the California Gold Rush, and prospered in the rugged chaos of the Wild West. Developed in partnership with San Diego State University, a new exhibition at the San Diego History Center will offer recent discoveries from archaeological excavations at the Nathan Harrison cabin site combined with in-depth research of historical accounts to offer new insights and perspectives into his biography, while also providing a fresh glimpse of everyday life in San Diego during the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era.

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