Posted in Black History, East Oakland, People, West Oakland

African American Women’s Clubs

During the later part of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th black women in Oakland established clubs and institutions to address the growing demands of the black community.

I will highlight some of them here.

Fanny Jackson Coppin Club

The Fanny Jackson Coppin Club was founded in 1899 by members of the Beth Eden Baptist Church

Colored Directory 1917

Not failure, but low aim is the crime.

Motto

The club was named in honor of Fannie Jackson Coppin (1837-1913) who was born a slave in Washington, D.C. and became a renowned educator 

Fannie Jackson Coppin

The Fannie Jackson Coppin Club is known as the “mother club” of the African American women’s club movement in California. 

At first, the club’s priority was to provide African American travelers who could not stay at segregated hotels welcoming places to spend a night.

The club was involved with the creation of the Home for the Aged and Infirm Colored People in Oakland, to provide care for elderly African Americans in the state of California.

Oakland Tribune June 26, 1959
California Club Journal 1973

Art and Industrial Club

In 1906, a branch of the Art and Industrial Club was formed and devoted itself to the arts and to “uplift of the race.”

Deeds Not Words”

Motto
Colored Directory 1917

Mother’s Charity Club

Founded in 1907

Lift as We Climb”

Motto

The Mother’s Charity Club was founded in 1907. They were dedicated to philanthropic endeavors. During its earliest years of activity, the Mother’s Charity Club fed and cared for many children and sick and needy persons.

Colored Directory 1917
1959-60

Elmhurst Progressive Club

The Elmhurst Progressive Club was founded in 1912.

Progressive

Motto
Colored Directory 1917
Oakland Tribune 1914

Imperial Art and Literary Club

The Imperial Art and Literary of Oakland was founded in 1912. They provided charity and promoted art and literary work.

Love and Truth

Motto
Colored Directory 1917
Oakland Tribune 1931
California Club Journal 1973

Self Improvement Club

Self Improvement Club of Oakland was founded in 1916. Their goal was to improve humanity and the surrounding communities.

He who is true to God, is true to Man”

Colored Directory 1917

Rhododendron Self Cultured Club of Oakland

The Rhododendron Club was formed in the early 1950s

Like Ivy we Climb–Lifting as we Climb

Four women holding presents at the Rhododendron Club fashion show at Slim Jenkins

Rhododendron Club fashion show contestants posing at Slim Jenkins

Fidelis Art and Culture Business Women’s Club of Oakland

California Club Journal 1973

The Art Social Club of Oakland

California Club Journal 1973

Royal 10 Society Club of Oakland

I only found this photo. I will update if I find more.

Members of the Royal 10 Social Club attending Hawaiian-themed luau party
Undated
African American Museum

Linden Street YWCA

In 1920, a group of African American clubwomen formed The Linden Street branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). 

They provided religious training, counseling services, vocational training, art classes, adult education classes, and all types of cultural events. 

 Located at 828 Linden Street, the branch was housed in a two-story building with four club rooms.

By 1938, the Linden Street “Y” had a membership of over 750.

In 1944 following a new national policy, the board of directors of the central Oakland YWCA integrated the Linden Street YWCA.

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

It was renamed the West Oakland Center of the YWCA. The two-story building was razed in the early 1960s

Group portrait of Les Elites Industrial Club Linden Branch Y.W.C.A

More Info:

I will add to this if I find more.

The End

Posted in Black History, People, Transportation, West Oakland

Oakland’s First African American Cab Driver

Phillip Richard Springer (1874-1952) was the first black man in Oakland to own a taxicab. He was born in Barbados, in the British West Indies and left home at age 16. At first he operated under a jitney permit in Oakland, but he later had the license changed to a taxicab permit. By 1915, Springer’s Cab Company was well established.

The Pullman Porters and West Oakland

The 1916 Directory listed Springer at 1926 Chestnut Street with chauffeur as his occupation

1916
1926 Chestnut – Google Maps

In the 1917 directory, he is listed at 835 Union Street with chauffeur as his occupation.

1917

In the 1925 directory, he is listed along with his wife Edna at 879 Campbell Street with taxi cab driver as his occupation.

1925

From 1927 until his death in 1952, he lived at 957-35th Street with his family. The 1930 census reports that he owns his home, and he was a taxi cab driver at his own stand.

1935
The Springer Home from 1927-at least 1952
957- 35th Street – Google Maps
Exhibit at the African American History Library Oakland
Oakland Tribune Nov 1952

Taxicab Driver Robbed

Oakland Tribune 1942
SF Examiner Jan 1947

Accident

The End

Posted in Black History, People

Lydia Flood Jackson (1862-1963)

When Lydia Flood Jackson died at the age of 101 in 1963, she was the oldest native of Oakland.

1963

She was the daughter of a freed slave, the first Negro to attend an integrated Oakland public school in 1872, and went on to become a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in 1918.

Oakland Tribune Jul 10, 1963

Lydia was born on June 9, 1862, at her family home in Brooklyn Township, now a part of Oakland.

She died on July 8, 1963. Services were held at the First A.M.E. Church in Oakland, California, formerly known as the Shiloh African Methodist Episcopal Church, which her parents helped found in 1858.

Funeral Program – Flood Family Papers

Negro Trail Blazers

Her father was Isaac Flood, and her mother was Elizabeth Thorn (Thorne) Scott Flood.  They were among the outstanding Negro pioneers of California, according to the historical publication “Negro Trail Blazers of California.”

Her father was born a slave in South Carolina and was freed in 1838, he traveled to California during the Gold Rush, settling in Oakland.

In 1854 her mother founded California’s first Negro School in Sacramento and was the first teacher.  She also founded a private school for minority groups in Alameda County in 1858, when Indians, Negroes, and Chinese were not allowed in White public schools. The school was at their home at 1335 East 15th Street in Oakland.

Elizabeth Thorn Flood – African American Library

The Flood’s had son George who is believed to be the first African American child born in Alameda County. Elizabeth and Isaac Flood were not only one of the earliest African American families in the Oakland area, but they were also one of the most prominent and progressive.

 Education

In 1871 her father, a leader of the Colored Convention, successfully fought to have Negro children admitted to public schools.

The Oakland School Board passed the following resolution:

Oakland Tribune July 1963

In 1872 his daughter Lydia became the first student to attend the Swett School (later the Old Bella Vista School). Then she attended night school at Oakland High and later married John William Jackson in 1889.

Activist and Clubwoman

Lydia Flood Jackson – Flood Family Papers

Jackson was a member of the Native Daughter’s Club and the Fannie Jackson Coppin Club for forty-two years. Jackson was also a leader in the California Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. While a member of the Federation, she on them to demand women’s suffrage. While addressing the organization’s 1918 state convention, she told her audience.

Today we are standing on the threshold of a great era looking into futurity to the mid-day sun of Democracy”

Lydia Flood Jackson 1918

Entrepreneur and Inventor

She founded Flood Toilet Creams, a successful West Coast cosmetic business which manufactured toiletries, creams, and perfumes. (I wish I could find more information on this)

Carolyn Carrington pins corsage onto Lydia Flood Jackson as they stand before the altar of church Circa 1960s
Oakland Tribune June 1962

Lydia Flood Jackson was honored on her 100th birthday by the City of Oakland as their “oldest living native and daughter of the first Negro school teacher in California.”

Oakland Tribune June 1962

Lydia Flood Jackson lived at 2319 Myrtle later in life.

More Info:

The End

Posted in Homes, People

Fountain of Serenity

Updated March 19, 2020

Oakland Tribune Aug 31, 1958

Fountain of Serenity in Knowland State Arboretum and Park. “Serena,” the statue which tops the fountain, inspires calm and courage in the face of worldly troubles.   Oakland Tribune 

Oakland Tribune Aug 31, 1958

Oakland Tribune Aug 31, 1958

Previous Location

Oakland Tribune Apr 29, 1962

The fountain once graced the gardens of the home of James H. Latham. Latham purchased the land in 1878 from Samuel B. Merritt.

Latham sold the home to Horace H. Seaton in 1885, who sold it, S. Murray, in 1892, who then sold it to  Edward G. Lukens in 1897. Lukens, son, was state Senator George R. Lukens.

Oakland Tribune 1898

In its heyday, the old mansion was a showplace. The home was a three-story structure with 25 rooms, a billiard room, a glass conservatory, and a bowling alley in the rear. There was also an ornate two-story barn with a hayloft and with horse stalls.

Undated – the fountain closer to the right side of the photo.

The Lukens family lived there until the death of Mrs. Emma Lukens in 1925.

Sometime after the death of Mrs. Lukens, the mansion was purchased by Edger L. Buttnera civic leader, and electrical contractor.

Oakland Tribune Jan 22, 1928
Oakland Tribune Jan 22, 1928

Oakland Tribune Jan 22, 1928

Barn/Livery Stable

In about 1938, Raoul Pause, a leading Oakland ballet teacher, converted part of the old two-story barn into a ballet studio. Many of the Oakland Ballet’s first dancers were students of Raoul Pause., he was the brother of Paul Pause of Montclair Reality.

In October of 1948, the building was damaged in a fire.

In 1952 the same building was destroyed by another fire.  At the time of the fire, the building was being used by the Hotel Senator (a boarding house) as a garage.

In 1957 the mansion was demolished to make room for an apartment complex.

Oakland Tribune May 17, 1957
Oakland Tribune June 02, 1957

The Fountain Today

The Latham-Ducel Fountain is the centerpiece of Preservation Park. It’s more popularly known as the Diana Fountain. The fountain is cast iron and was forged in Paris in the 1870s.

Latham-Ducel fountain
photo CC-A from Our Oakland

Latham-Ducel fountain
photo CC-A from Our Oakland

My question is that Serena or Diana on the top of the fountain?

More Info:

Western Fuse Company Explosion

E.G. Lukens was the owner of  Western Fuse and Explosives Company.  See Oakland Local Wiki – 

Oakland Tribune Jul 19, 1898

Latham Square Fountain

The Latham Square Fountain is located at the intersection of Telegraph and Broadway in downtown Oakland. It was erected in 1913 as a memorial for James H. Latham and Henrietta Latham by their children and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

SF Call 1913

The End.

Posted in Black History, Business, People, West Oakland

Slim Jenkins Supper Club – Market

Harold “Slim” Jenkins was an African American entrepreneur and owner of the renowned Slim Jenkins Supper Club on 7th Street in West Oakland.

Exterior entrance of Slim Jenkins nightclub and coffee shop.
 E. F. Joseph Photograph Collection

Liquor Store and Market

SF Examiner

Slim Jenkins saw the economic opportunity in the business district and opened a liquor store on December 5, 1933, the same day as the repeal of Prohibition. Soon the business expanded a cafe.

1934
The exterior of Slim Jenkins Super-Market
 E. F. Joseph Photograph Collection
SF Examiner 1938

Coffee shop opens in April of 1938. The rest is history.

The interior of Slim Jenkins Super-Market
 E. F. Joseph Photograph Collection

The exterior of Slim Jenkins nightclub
 E. F. Joseph Photograph Collection
Oakland Tribune 1955
Oakland Tribune

More Info:

The End

 

Posted in Buildings, Oakland, People, Uncategorized, West Oakland

Thomas Mahoney House

As I take a little break from my series on the schools in Oakland, I thought I would share this little bit of history with you.

Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator. Thomas Mahoney House, 69 Eighth Street, Oakland, Alameda County, CA
. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/ca0013/>.

These photos have popped up many times over the years and, I didn’t give them much thought. They popped up again yesterday. I decided to look into them and see what I could find.

Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator. Thomas Mahoney House, 69 Eighth Street, Oakland, Alameda County, CA
. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/ca0013/>.

Both photos are online at the Library of Congress. Please note there is a typo in the LOC description the address is 669 Eighth Street.

  • Thomas Mahoney House – LOC

I don’t know what became of the house after these photos were taken. I will let you know if I find out anything.

Early Pioneer

So, I started looking into Thomas Mahoney (sometimes spelled Mahony) Wow, I was amazed to find a Thomas Mahoney living at 669 Eight Street in 1871. In the 1880 census, he lives there with his wife and four children. I then locate in an obituary from Jan of 1900. In the obituary, I notice his daughter Laura’s married name is Bassett

!8718 Directory
1888 Directory

Mahoney came to California in the 1850s. He mined for awhile in Tuolumne county before retiring on his ranch in Hills of Oakland. In 1863 he sold his ranch and moved to the home on Eighth Street next the St. John’s Episcopal He was married in 1863 and raised four children in the home. His wife died in 1891 and he died in 1900.

His obituary

Oakland Tribune Jan 29 1900

Thomas Mahoney a well known pioneer of this city, died at his home, 660
Eighth Street, last evening, in the 71st year of his age.

The deceased was a native of Ireland and came to this State many years ago, where he engaged in ranching. He owned a large quantity of land to the north of the present city limits, from which the sites now comprising Mountain View, St. Mary’s and the Jewish Cemeteries was purposed by the managers of those several burial places.

The deceased was a widower, his wife having died a number of years ago. He was the father of Mrs. Laura J. Bassett, Louise H., Emma E. and George Mahoney.

The funeral services will be held next Wednesday in St. John’s Episcopal
Church. Interment will take place in St. Mary’s Cemetery

Oakland Tribune Jan 1900

Family members continued to live in the home until around 1913.

St. Mary’s Cemetery

In 1863 Archbishop Alemany purchased 36 acres of land known as the ” Mahoney Ranch” from Thomas Mahoney. The land is now known as St. Mary’s Cemetery next to Mountain View Cemetery. Thomas Mahoney was buried there in 1900.

Find A Grave – St. Mary’s Cemetery – Thomas Mahoney

Past and Present of Alameda County, California
Book by Joseph Eugene Baker
Oakland Tribune May 22, 1922

The Knave

Laura Mahoney Bassett was well known for her reminiscences in the Sunday Knave in the Oakland Tribune. She was the oldest daughter of Thomas Mahoney and she was born in Oakland in 1866 where she lived most of her 80 years. She died in 1950.

Oakland Tribune Jue 23, 1950

Sunday Knave

Some of her “reminiscences” in the Sunday Knave.

Oakland Tribune 1944
Oakland Tribune June 29, 1947
Oakland Tribune July 6, 1947
Oakland Tribune Aug 10, 1947

Go here to read the clip Oakland Tribune.

The End

Posted in Black History, Oakland, People

OPD – First Black Women Recruit

In 1970 Saundra Brown was the first black woman accepted for the Oakland Police Department’s Recruits Academy.

SF Examiner Dec 18. 1970

I ‘m kind of optimistic”

Saundra Brown December 1970

Born and raised in Oakland. She felt she knew the problems of the young here. She said, “in a city like Oakland, with its Black Panthers and militant groups, there is a special need for minority police officers.” She worked with teens during her college days.

Saundra graduated from Fresno College with a degree in sociology. She always had her eyes set on working with juveniles and looked into law enforcement as a possible field. She applied to OPD immediately after her June 1969 graduation. No opening existed.

She was working as a claims adjuster when she heard that OPD was looking for a “black policewomen.”

Police Academy

Saundra Brown, the first black woman on the Oakland police force, gets instructions on how to shoot a shotgun, 1970.

At that time, a MALE recruit needed only a high school diploma or a score of 262 on a GED course. WOMEN must have a four-year college degree or four years’ experience in law enforcement. She had that.

She attended the same 15 weeks Police Academy as the 22 males in her class. She was expected to compete with the males.

She took courses in criminal law and report writing, first aid traffic investigation, and the Oakland penal code. There were also defensive tactics, involving strenuous activities such as calisthenics, some judo, a little karate.

Oh, I did alright I guess” she laughed. I can throw the biggest guy in the class.

Saundra Brown – December 17, 1970

During the course, she learned for the first time in her life, to handle firearms.

I used to be scared of guns,” she laughed,. “but now I feel safer with a gun in possession because I know how to use it”

Oakland Tribune Dec 14, 1970

Graduation

SF Examiner Dec 18, 1970

On December 18, 1970, she accepted her star and the congratulations from Police Chief Charles Gain as the only woman in the police academy of 24.

She finished near the top of her class. She hoped to be assigned to the juvenile division. However Chief Gain had other ideas

As the only minority-group policewoman, she joined a slightly more significant minority. There were 710 men on the force; only 7 women.

At that time, women were not allowed to compete with men for advancement. Fascinated with the legal issues she encountered on the job as a policewoman, Saundra decided to attend law school while continuing to serve her hometown of Oakland as a police officer until 1977.

She served with OPD from 1970-77

Life after the OPD

She then received a Juris Doctor from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1977.

She was a judicial extern, California Court of Appeals in 1977, and was a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California from 1978 to 1979 and from 1980 to 1982. From 1979 to 1980, she was a senior consultant to the California Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice.

She was a trial attorney of the Public Integrity Section of the United States Department of Justice from 1982 to 1983. She then served as a Commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission from 1983 to 1986, and on the United States Parole Commission from 1986 to 1989.

She was a Judge on the Alameda Superior Court, California, from 1989 to 1991.

Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong official portrait art by Scott Johnston, oil on linen, 38×27-inches, collection of the United States District Court of Northern California, Oakland

On April 25, 1991, Armstrong was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California vacated by William Austin Ingram. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 14, 1991, and received her commission on June 18, 1991.

She earned a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from the Pacific School of Religion in 2012, and she assumed senior status on March 23, 2012

https://blackthen.com/the-real-cleopatra-jones-saundra-brown-1970-look-at-her-now/

More on Saundra Brown

The End

Posted in Montclair, People

Grateful Dead House – Oakland

The Grateful Dead once partied at 6024 Ascot Drive in the Piedmont Pines section of Oakland.

6024 Ascot Drive
Oakland Tribune May9, 1948

In 1948 house at 6024 Ascot Drive was advertised as an ‘ A Little Bit of Mexico” in beautiful Piedmont Hills ( Piedmont Pines), nestled in a glorious 2 1/4 acres: balconies overlooking a beautiful swimming pool. All the tiles in the bathrooms came from the Muresque Tile Co. of Oakland, one of the premier West Coast tilemakers in the 1920s and ’30s. Property highlights include a log cabin family room.

In 1968 Michael Leibert, his wife Alexa, and their 5 dogs lived at 6024 Ascot. Leibert was the founder of the Berkeley Repertory Theater.

The house had a routine existence until sometime during the late sixties, the house was rented by Owsley “Bear” Stanley (1935-2011) was an American audio engineer and chemist.

Stanley was the first known private individual to manufacture mass quantities of LSD. By his own account, between 1965 and 1967, Stanley produced no less than 500 grams of LSD, amounting to a little more than five million doses.

Owsley was a crucial figure in the San Francisco Bay Area hippie movement during the 1960s and played a pivotal role in the decade’s counterculture. Under the professional name Bear, he was the soundman for the rock band the Grateful Dead, whom he met when Ken Kesey invited them to an Acid Test party. As their sound engineer, Stanley frequently recorded live tapes behind his mixing board and developed their Wall of Sound sound system, one of the largest mobile public address systems ever constructed.

Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III
By Robert Greenfield
Google Books
Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III
By Robert Greenfield
Oakland Tribune Jul 16, 1970

In 1972 the house was advertised an authentic Spanish “Villa.” Back on the market.

Oakland Tribune May 21, 1972
SF Examiner 1998

The house was sold in 2012 for 1.2 million dollars.   A September 2012 article, “Rest Your Head Where the Grateful Dead Once Partied,” was posted on the  Curbed San Francisco website.

More Info –

The End

Posted in Black History, Business, People, West Oakland

Stephens’ Family

The William M Stephens family was a very successful African American family from Oakland. They owned the Stephens Restaurant, and Virginia, their daughter, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post.  Virginia went on to be the first African American woman to receive a law degree University of California Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law in 1929.

Stephens Restaurant at 200 East 14th Oakland
Circa 1925 – photo by M.L. Cohen
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

The Stephens Family

William Stephens Circa 1901
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

William Stephens was born in 1870 in Accomack County, Virginia. He moved out to California while still a child and attended school in Oakland and San Francisco. After graduation, Stephens completed coursework at Heald College before taking a job with the Southern Pacific Railway in 1886. Beginning as a Sleeping Car Porter, he worked his way up to a clerkship under H.E. Huntington, assistant to the company’s President.

In 1894 he lived at 1132 Linden Street in West Oakland.

In 1898, Stephens resigned from Southern Pacific and took a position with the Crocker family, traveling with them throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Through these travels, Stephens learned about the hotel and restaurant business.

Pauline Stephens circa 1898
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

In 1901, he married Pauline Logan (1874-1929) of Tehama, California.

Pauline gave birth to one daughter, Annie Virginia (who went by Virginia), on April 7, 1903. Due to his daughter’s health problems as a young girl, Stephens resigned from his post with the Crockers and began working at an Oakland social club. He moved on from this position in 1915 to manage the Clubhouse at the Hotel Del Monte Golf and Country Club in Monterey County.

Pauline died in May of 1929

Oakland Tribune May 24, 1929

William died on November 21, 1932

Oakland Tribune Nov 22, 1931

Stephens Restaurant

Group of men standing in front of Stephens’ Restaurant & Lunch Room at 110 East 14th circa the 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Eventually, Stephens opened his own restaurant in Oakland. Known as Stephens’ Restaurant, it grew from small quarters into an ample establishment seating over 200 people, occupying three locations near Lake Merritt.

William Stephens (right) and employee inside Stephens’ Restaurant circa the 1920s
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the restaurant enjoyed great success and was usually filled to capacity. Stephens took great delight in employing African American high school and college students so they could earn money for their education.

The final location of the restaurant was 200 East 14th (now International Blvd) at 2nd Ave. I am not sure when it closed as it was still in business after Stephens died in 1932

Stephens Restaurant – 1925
Photo By ML Cohen
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.
Oakland Tribune 1930

Virginia Stephens

Stephen’s daughter, Virginia, won acclaim at the age of fourteen when her name “Jewel City” was selected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings in a competition sponsored by the San Francisco Call-Post.

Virginia Stephens on the left -The Jewel City, San Francisco, 1915:
PIPE – 100 Years
Oakland Tribune May 01, 1952

Virginia attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a bachelor’s degree in science in 1924.

Graduation Portrait of Virginia Stephens – 1929
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Encouraged by her father to attend law school, she enrolled in Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley and earned a degree in 1929. At that time, she was only the second woman to receive a law degree from the school and the first African American woman to complete the program.  Virginia passed the California Bar in the same year, the first African American female Attorney in California.

1929 Bar Card
MS005_B01_F01_004
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

While at Berkeley, Virginia and Ida L. Jackson were charter members Rho Chapter in 1921 and Alpha Nu Omega, a graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. These were among the first Greek sororities for African American women west of the Mississippi.

Members of Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, University of California, Berkeley (left-right): Virginia Stephens, Oreatheal Richardson, Myrtle Price (in back), Ida Jackson (sorority president), Talma Brooks, and Ruby Jefferson (1921), 
African American Museum and Library at Oakland. 

Virginia married attorney George Coker (1906-1970). The Cokers helped tutor African American students for the State bar exams. They moved to Virginia and maintained a private law practice there for almost a decade.

In 1939 after working in private practice for ten years, they moved back to California, settling in Sacramento. Virginia received an appointment as Attorney in the State Office of the Legislature Council in Sacramento in May 1939. In this capacity, she helped with drafting and amending legislative bills, and worked under four different legislative councils:

Virginia Stephens Cokerundated
Stephens Family papers, MS 5, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

Upon her retirement in 1966, Virginia had attained the position of Deputy of the Indexing Section. Virginia died in Sacramento at the age of 83 on February 11, 1986.

More of the Stephens Family

The End

 

Posted in Black History, History, People, Then and Now, West Oakland

Royal E. Towns – Engine Company No. 22

Royal Edward Towns (February 10, 1899–July 23, 1990) was one of the first African American firefighters in Oakland and was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department.  Towns 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. 

Royal E. Towns

He joined the OFD in 1927 and was assigned to Engine Company No. 22, a segregated firehouse in West Oakland. The station was located at 3320 Magnolia Street. 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.

The exterior of Oakland Fire Department Engine no. 22
3320 Magnolia Street

Three firefighters sitting in Oakland fire truck parked in the driveway of fire Engine no. 22

Royal Towns was the 11th black Oakland fireman when he was hired in 1927.  The 12th wasn’t hired for another 15 years. 

Royal E. Towns and his colleagues with Engine Company No. 22 of the racially segregated Oakland Fire Department. (1943)

In 1971 there were only 35 black firemen.

Towns became the first to be promoted in the OFD. He became a chief operator in 1941 and retired as a lieutenant in 1962.

Royal E. Towns (center) and his colleagues with Engine Company No. 22
of the racially segregated Oakland Fire Department. (1943)

Towns was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department. He helped train many other black applicants to pass the fire department test.

Royal Towns on the left with Oakland firefighters standing in front of fire engine no. 22 – Circa 1943

Personal Life

Royal Towns was born in Oakland on February 10, 1899, to William Towns and Elizabeth Towns.

Towns married Lucille Dennis May 26, 1920. Together they had three children. The family lived in various locations within Oakland

Royal E. Towns died July 23, 1990, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery

More Photos

The photos are courtesy of the Royal E. Towns papers, MS 26, African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California. Photos at Calisphere

3320 Magnolia Street Oakland – Then and Now
It is no longer a Fire Station

Rolling Hoses in front of Engine No 22

Two firemen attaching hoses to a fire hydrant, firefighters practicing with fire hoses in the park in the background – on Peralta Street

Peralta Street – Then and Now

Firemen holding fire hose in the street next to
Gleason and Company building – Circa 1950s
at the corner of Magnolia and 34th Street

34th and Magnolia – Then and Now

Firemen holding fire hose in the street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia

Across from the Gleason Company today

Firemen holding fire hose in the street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia

Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Circa 1950s

Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Then and Now

Dog climbing ladder to get an apple in front of Oakland Fire Department Fire Engine No. 22 – circa the 1950s

Fireman jumping off the ladder in front of Oakland Fire Department fire Engine no. 22

More on Royal E. Towns

The End