Delilah Beasley

Delilah Beasley – undated

Delilah Beasley was a columnist for the Oakland Tribune and was the first African American woman to be published regularly in a major U.S. newspaper. 

She is most known for her book “The Negro Trail-Blazers of California,” published in 1919 and reprinted in 1968. 

Early Life

Delilah Leontium Beasley was born Cincinnati, Ohio, just after the Civil War on September 9, 1871 (some report 1867) to Daniel Beasley, an engineer, and Margaret Harris.

Beasley began her newspaper career in 1887, writing for the black newspaper, the Cleveland Gazette on church and social activities.

After her parents’ death, she went to Chicago and took a position to learn massage: she desired to become a nurse, which she became a few years later.

She traveled to California to nurse a former patient and stayed.

After moving to Oakland in 1910 at the age of 39, she wrote for the Oakland Sunshine and the Western Outlook.

In 1910 3,055 African Americans were living in Oakland.

Trail-Blazers

To help her race; to open doors into the arts and sciences for the negro boys and girls, has been the impelling force for Delilah Beasley”

Los Angeles Times Jul 13, 1919

Oakland Tribune April 16, 1915

Beasley spent the first nine years in Oakland researching Black Americans’ history in the west at the University of California at Berkeley. She also would give presentations at local churches.

An early cover of the book

In 1919 she self-published a book called The Negro Trail Blazers of California. The book chronicled African American “firsts” and notable achievements in early California. The book includes diaries, biographical sketches, poetry, photographs, old papers, conversations with old pioneers, and a comprehensive history of early legislation and court cases.

California Eagle Dec 7, 1918
California Eagle March 15, 1919

Activities Among Negroes

Her book paved the way for Beasley to become the first African American women in California to write regularly for a major metropolitan newspaper. She worked for the Oakland Tribune from 1923 to 1934 and wrote a weekly column entitled “Activities Among Negroes.”  The column carried civic and religious news of the black community

Civic Organizations

Beasley was determined to advance the rights of African Americans and women; she joined many civic clubs. These included the NAACP, the Alameda County League of Women Voters, the National Association of Colored Women, the Oakland Council of Church Women, and the Linden Center Young Women’s Christian Association.

She was an honorary member of the League of Nations Association of Northern California.

Oakland Tribune March 3, 1928

Delilah died at the age of 62 on August 18, 1934.  Beasley is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Oakland Tribune Aug 19, 1934

She live for many years at 705- 34th Street.

Exterior of Delilah Beasley’s house, 705 34th Oakland, CaliforniaAfrican American Museum & Library at Oakland 

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