Monday, February 6, 2012

walking tour: New Era, New Politics

Saturday was a specially scheduled walking tour as part of the celebration of Black History Month in Oakland. It's the "New Era, New Politics" tour, and focuses on the more recent history of Oakland.

There was a great turnout, 23 people plus our guide, Renate. As when I took the tour last summer, it starts a little slow, with a lot of names and facts in front of the African American Museum and Library of Oakland (AAMLO). But I did learn some new things, such as the identity of the young boy pictured on one of the banners at the museum.

The banner shows Royal Townes, who became the first African American firefighter in Oakland, and was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department. Royal was born in Oakland in 1899, and when denied union membership in his factory job because of his race, went to work as a railroad porter. He took the fire department application test and easily passed (he was an intelligent young man, and spoke three languages), but because of his race, his application needed a nudge from his former employer. He helped train many other black applicants to pass the test, and was scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop that included Sam Golden, who went on to become the first African American fire chief in Oakland. There's an interesting paper at UC Berkeley about the desegregation of the Oakland Fire Department (.doc)

There was lots more we heard about, including people that should be familiar to Oaklanders, including: Delilah Beasley, C.L. Dellums, Lionel Wilson, Elihu Harris, Henry Gardner, Morrie Turner, Byron Rumford, and judge Donald McCullum. To read more about some of these names, click the links, and see my post from last year's New Era, New Politics walking tour.

more pictures:

some of the books referenced:

Special shoutout to @kenyaw who was there with lots of friends celebrating his birthday. Happy Birthday, Kenya! And a reminder to support the Oakland walking tours program—it's one of the things possibly on the budget chopping block.

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