Posted in Black History, West Oakland

The Black Y’s of Oakland

The Linden Branch Y.W.C.A. and the Filbert Street Y.M.C.A. developed programs during the 1930s that helped the Black community survive the Depression years. They emerged at a time when the national Y’s both encouraged separate branches for Black members.

Oakland’s Black Y.W.C.A

In 1920 a small group of local black women, Mrs. Willie HenryMelba Stafford, and Hettie B. Tilghman, organized the Linden Center Y.W.C.A. with the central organization’s support and approval.

Linden branch of the YWCA in Oakland, California. circa 1940 Clubhouses–California-Oakland. Young Women’s Christian Associations–California–Oakland. Neighborhoods–California–Oakland–West Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room.

Linden Center got its name from its location at 828 Linden Street in West Oakland. It achieved the “branch” status in 1924 due to increase membership. It was then known as the Linden Branch Y.W.C.A or the Linden Y.

Young Women’s Christian Association Collection – African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

The Linden Y functioned as a job placement center and welfare agency during the Depression years.

Linden Street Y.W.C.A. interest groups, clubs, classes
 Young Women’s Christian Association of Oakland.
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

The branch operated as a community center, offering members religious training, recreational activities, counseling, vocational training, and music and art programs.

 Linden Street Y.W.C.A. interest groups, clubs, classes
 Young Women’s Christian Association of Oakland.
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)
MS110_B01_F03_019

 Y.W.C.A. yearbook
Young Women’s Christian Association of the U.S.A.–History.
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

By 1938 the Linden St. Y had a membership of over 750.

For almost 25 years, the Linden Branch existed as a segregated facility. Following a national policy change, the board of the Oakland Y.W.C.A. integrated the Linden Street Y.

“to make its program available to all women and girls irrespective of race, creed or color”

The name was changed to West Oakland Center YWCA.


Group of men and women sitting on wall in front of Linden Branch Y.W.C.A – circa 1930s African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)
Joseph, E. F. (Emmanuel Francis), 1900-1979
Group Photo 1940
African American Museum and Library at Oakland, MS189_0809

Linden Street was described as ” a two-story framed building with four club rooms, a reception hall, office for the business and industrial sections, and two rooms rented to accommodate working girls.”

The facility and the entire surrounding neighborhood were razed in the early 1960s to make room for the Acorn Projects.

Linden Street Y.W.C.A. 828 Linden Street circa 1940
 Young Women’s Christian Association of Oakland.
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)

Oakland’s Black Y.M.C.A. 

Organized by Rev. L.A. Brown of the  First A.M.E. Church, opened on June 6, 1926. It was initially located at 3431 Market Street in West Oakland, and William E. Watkins, an attorney, was the first director. In 1927 the organization had a membership of 160, 134 seniors, and 26 boys.

3431 Market St -Today Google Maps

In 1929 they moved to 804 Filbert Street and became known as the Filbert Street Branch, Y.M.C.A. In 1935 they moved to 805 Linden Street and became the Eight and Linden Branch, Y.M.C.A.

The Filbert Street Y promoted a competitive sports program. Its annual track meet annual athletic contest attracted competitors from all over the Bay Area.

Oakland Tribune Mar 19, 1934

They sponsored a variety of classes and activities. Members could attend classes in Bible and woodworking. A boys’ orchestra, organized by C. E. Brown, preformed for the public. Some of the boys were invited to summer camp.

In 1936 Mr. Watkins resigned as the director and was replaced by R.T. Smith. The directory lists the BLACK YMCA at 836-36th Street. After the move to 36th Street it became known as the North Oakland Branch. It probably integrated about the same time as the Linden Branch.

Exterior of Y.M.C.A. building African Americans–California–Oakland–History–Pictorial works. source: Joseph (E. F.) Photograph Collection circa 1930s : MS126_2499
836 -36th Street today – Google Maps

804 Linden Street burned in 1960 and then was razed for the Acorn Projects.

More Info:

Oakland Heritage Alliance Newsletter – The Black Y’s of Oakland – Winter 1987-88

Oakland Heritage Alliance News Winter 2013 – Remembering the Linden Street Y

Linden Street Y.W.C.A. – Oakland Local WIki 

The End

Author:

I grew up in the Montclair District of Oakland, CA. I attended Thornhill Elementary School, Montera Junior High, Skyline High School, and spent some time at Merritt College.

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