Richmond's Black History Corner

Thank you for visiting Richmond's Black History Corner. Here you will find various facts on Black History in Richmond. Hopefully this will wet your appetite for researching deeper into the Black History of Richmond to discover the pride, roots, and beginnings in various areas, such as arts & culture, the WWII era, athletics, business, entertainment, politics and more. Let's get started with...Did you know?

Did you know? 
There was a Black History Month Presentation held on February 23, 2016 during the City Council Meeting. Read more...

One of the first downtown African American-operated businesses was O.B. Freeman's Shoe Shine at 1319 Macdonald Avenue.
This place in the heart of Richmond's commercial district was fondly remembered by Gus Sonoda, whose family ran a shoe repair store on 10th Street, as a pre- WWII gathering place for "hot-rodders."
The Maritime Child Development Centers -- created and maintained to enable women to work 'around the clock -- did not serve African American children. However, there was such a strong tradition of collective parenting brought with them from the South, that it mattered little to black families. It didn't take long before that collection of hard-working heroic strangers created "community" in North Richmond and parts of Berkeley and Oakland - wherever housing could be found, and began to set down roots in the West, despite the continuing handicap imposed by racism.

Like many thousands of African Americans who answered their country's call after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, their parents came to work in the Kaiser Shipyards during WWII. Today's United Methodist Minister Rev. Chester Ray Jones of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and his sister, Minnie Lee, roomed with the Charlie Reid family in North Richmond. They attended Peres school as children and Minnie Lee, who later changed her name to Dr. Joycelyn Elders, rose to become the Medical Director for the State of Arkansas and later was named by President William Clinton as Surgeon General of the United States of America.

Henry J. Kaiser's mission was -- not to conduct a social experiment in race relations -- but to use his power to build ships faster than the enemy could sink them. He did that; 747 were built here in Richmond, some in as little as 4 days. Kaiser created and trained a huge unskilled workforce of women, aging men, and those too young or disabled to fight. To accomplish this, Kaiser Permanente recruited black and white people from the southern states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. Those he brought together in Richmond would not be sharing drinking fountains, schools, public accommodations, even cemeteries, in their places of origin for another 20 years; not until the Sixties. Into a town (Richmond) of 24,000 would come 108,000 over the next four years, bringing with them a system of racial segregation and inequality that would set the stage for the Civil Rights struggles that would follow. An argument can be made that the Civil Rights Revolution that swept the nation in the Sixties may have had its genesis right here in Richmond, California, as an unintended consequence of the dynamics set in motion in the cause of securing the victory over the enemy, and saving the world from tyranny.

Dr. Martin Luther King's first visit to the State of California occurred in the early days of the Civil Rights struggles when -- at the invitation of Pastor Booker T. Anderson -- he visited Easter Hill United Methodist Church on Cutting Boulevard. Yes, Pastor Booker T. Anderson is the late husband of our former Mayor Irma L. Anderson.

Lena Horn entertained at Kaiser Shipyard III at the launching of the George Washington Carver.

It doesn't take much imagination to envision the kind of organizing that must have taken place at Ethel Dotson's historic International Hotel on South Street. During the early days that preceded the creation of the Sleeping Car Porters Union under A. Phillip Randolph and C.L. Dellums who was the strong president of the East Bay NAACP.

At that time the Pullman company serviced its cross-country rail cars at the huge plant on Carlson and South, the western terminus of their runs. There was a hotel that served the "layover" white workers on the corner of Carlson (since demolished). Black porters (barred from the Pullman) stayed at the International Hotel about a block away, where there were 20 small second story rooms and a large reception area on the ground floor. This certainly must have been the site of much organizing and socializing that eventually led to the establishing of the (national) Railroad Porters Union that caused such a stir in Washington during the Roosevelt administration. That building still stands.

A Berkeley woman, Mrs. Frances Albrier, was the first black woman to apply for work at the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards. She was at first refused, but persisted and was eventually hired. Mrs. Albrier has a rich history in the Bay Area that includes activism that broke workplace and housing barriers in the City of Berkeley and that led to a South Berkeley community center being named in her memory at San Pablo Park. Today, Mrs. Albrier's son is the chief engineer on the Red Oak Victory berthed here in Richmond.

Information included in the "Did you know" section was provided by our own Ms. Betty Reid-Soskin, who is a Community Outreach Specialist for the Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront National Historical Park here in Richmond. Ms. Soskin was named a 1995 “Woman of the Year” by the California State Legislature and an honoree of the National Women's History Project for 2006.


Black Elected Officials in the City of Richmond
Alphabetical Order

Allen, FV (Fritz)
Elected May 13, 1975 - six year term
Defeated for re-election May 12, 1981
Died August 30, 1995

Anderson, Irma L.
Elected November 3, 1993 - four year term
Re-elected November 4, 1997 -four year term
Served as Vice Mayor 1998-1999
Elected Mayor November 2001 - four year term
Defeated for re-election November 2006

Anderson, Booker T.
Elected May 13, 1969 - six year term
Served as Vice Mayor 1972-1973
Served as Mayor 1973-1974
Did not seek re-election, 1975
Died November 28, 1982

Bates, Nathaniel R.
Elected May 9, 1967 - six year term
Served as Vice Mayor 1970-1972
Served as Mayor 1971-1972
Re-elected April 17, 1973 - six year term
Served as Mayor 1976-1977
Re-elected May 8, 1979 - four year term
Defeated for re-election May 10, 1983
Elected November 7, 1995 - four year term
Re-elected November 2, 1999 - four year term
Mayoral run November 2001 Defeated
Re-elected November 2004 - four year term
Re-elected November 2008 - four year term 
Re-elected November 6, 2012 - four year term
Beckles, Jovanka
Elected November 2, 2010 - four year term
Re-elected November 4, 2014 - four year term
Served as Vice Mayor 2014 calendar year

Belcher, Charles Rev.
Appointed to fill vacancy by Alex Evans
Elected November 2001 - two years*
Did not seek re-election

Bell, Gary L.
Elected November 2, 1999 - four year term
Defeated for re-election November 2004
Mayoral run November 2006 Defeated 
Elected November 6, 2012 - four year term (died prior to filling seat)
Boozé, Courtland "Corky"
Elected November 2, 2010 - four year term
Served as Vice Mayor - 2013 calendar year

Carroll, George D.
Elected May 9, 1961 - six year term
Served as Mayor 1964-1965
Appointed Municipal Judge
Resigned from City Council June 7, 1965

Evans, Bernard
Appointed August 16, 1965 to fill vacancy created by resignation of George D. Carroll
Defeated for re-election May 9, 1967
Died April 13, 1978

Griffin, Richard L.
Appointed July 27, 1981 to fill vacancy created by Councilman Corcoran’s Mayoral win
Defeated May 10, 1983
Elected May 14, 1985 - four year term
Served as Vice Mayor November 23, 1987-1988
Elected November 3, 1993 - four year term
Re-elected November 4, 1997 - four year term
Re-elected November 2001 - four year term*
Did not seek re-election November, 2006

Livingston, George L.
Elected May 11, 1965 - six year term
Served as Vice Mayor 1968-1969
Served as Mayor 1969-1970
Tied with Richard Nelson, May 11, 1971
Resolved by court, Dec 30, 1972 – Recount
Richard Nelson declared winner
Elected May 8, 1979 - four year term
Served as Vice Mayor June 1, 1981-1982
Re-elected May 10, 1983 - four year term
Served as Vice Mayor June 3, 1985-1986
Elected Mayor November 5, 1985 to fill vacancy created by death of Thomas J. Corcoran
Elected Mayor November 1989 - four year term

McIntosh, Lesa
Elected in November of 1995-for year term
Did not seek re-election in 1999

McMillan, James B.
Elected May 10, 1983 - four year term
Re-elected November 3, 1987 - four year term
Re-elected 1991 - four year term
Did not seek re-election 1995 
Myrick, Jael
Appointed February 4, 2013 to fill seat vacated by the death of Gary Bell - two year term
Elected November 4, 2014 - two year term

Penn, Mindell Lewis
Elected November 2, 1999 for four year term
Re-election November 2004 for four year term
Resigned July 1, 2005

Thurmond, Tony K.
Appointed 7/19/05 to fill term vacated by Mindell Lewis Penn
Elected November 2006 for two year term
Did not seek re-election in the November 2008 election

Washington, Lonnie, Jr.
Elected May 10, 1977 - six year term
Served as Vice Mayor 1979-1980
Served as Mayor 1980-1981
Re-elected May 10 1983 - four year term
Served as Vice Mayor 1984-1985
Re-elected November 3, 1987 - four year term
Re-elected 1991 - four year term
Did not seek re-election 1995

For all you readers, here's our featured book entitled To Place Our Deeds by Shirley Ann Wilson Moore. The book is about The African American Community in Richmond, California, 1910-1963.

Shirley traces the development of the African American community in Richmond, California, a city on the San Francisco Bay. This readable, extremely well-researched social history, based on numerous oral histories, newspapers, and archival collections, is the first to examine the historical development of one black working-class community over a fifty-year period. Offering a gritty and engaging view of daily life in Richmond, Shirley Ann Wilson Moore examines the process and effect of migration, the rise of a black urban industrial workforce, and the dynamics of community development. She describes the culture that migrants brought with them - including music, food, religion, and sports - and shows how these traditions were adapted to new circumstances. Working-class African Americans in Richmond used their cultural venues - especially the city's legendary blues clubs - as staging grounds from which to challenge the racial status quo, with a steadfast determination not to be "Jim Crowed" in the Golden State. As this important work shows, working-class African Americans often stood at the forefront of the struggle for equality and were linked to larger political, social, and cultural currents that transformed the nation in the postwar period.

African American Athletes from Richmond

We would like to pay Tribute to Charles Reid and Gene Corr, who both had a profound impact on a number of athletes from Richmond both Black and White

We hope you have enjoyed are highlights on Black History in Richmond. These highlights do not cover all the accomplishments that African Americans have contributed to the city of Richmond and we encourage you to visit our local library or surf the web to research the contributions of African Americans that have enriched the history of Richmond California.

Thank you for visiting.