It may not seem like it, but we have four years left in the International Decade for Peoples of African Descent, which began in 2015 on the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment. Of all the notable blacks over the millennia, the United Nations Compliance Committee selected the San Franciscan Maya Angelou as the icon on its website, also featuring Danny Glover, another George Washington High alum.
During the San Francisco Architecture and City Festival in September, I unveiled a bill to preserve the important legacy they represent with a National Park Service study to create the Maya Angelou National Historic District and Geary Street Post Office to rename memorial post on November 18. “
With two of the three federal government leaders based out of San Francisco, there’s no better time to move forward.
Without the Western addition, Marguerite Johnson would have missed her fate. A 10-segment series on KQED in 1968 – Blacks, Blues, Black – showed the mighty Pan-African force that Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been closely associated for the past decade.
She literally arrived from Arkansas looking for her voice. Her mother connected her with the book icons Julian and Dr. Raye Richardson, who gave Marguerite her first book to read. Johnson did not graduate from GW, but was trained as an agent for change by the San Francisco Labor School. At 16, she became the first black woman to conduct the Market Street Trolley after applying every day until the segregation ended.
A job at Melrose Records on the 1200s block of Fillmore sparked her love of music when she left her house in Post and Laguna.
Another teenager influenced by the most politically progressive neighborhood in the United States was Martin Luther King Jr., whose family sent him from Atlanta every summer to stay with his cousins on Scott Street. The political sophistication that developed over a century from the abolition movement became the integration of the labor movement in the 1930s. Dockers and railroaders who initiated labor integration at the Whitcomb Hotel in 1935 raised children who completely dominated California high school athletics in the 1940s.
Experienced doctors like Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett opened newspapers, banks, and radio stations to serve a community drawn to astute entertainment promoters in the 1940s. It was a unique phenomenon in San Francisco, not a derivative of the “chitlin circuit”.
The tone and context of the story can often make facts irrelevant, as is the case with such important local figures as Dr. Howard Thurman happened. Like Angelou, he is more recognized outside of San Francisco than here, where he spent much of his adult life.
Those who opposed the goals of Western addition sought not only to pillage it, but also to marginalize its history and global impact. The climax of this counter-narrative took a fatal turn in 1978 when more than 900 people were killed in Guyana. A post office was set up on the site of the building that brought them to that cruel fate, but nothing to remember.
These measures would help revitalize tourism in San Francisco once the pandemic has subsided and direct visitor spending more directly to the places where it is needed most.
The example of the Jackson Ward National Historic District in Richmond, Virginia shows how correct interpretation can help communities grow despite gentrification by advancing those who have lived there. Having lived in both parts of the city, I’ve seen the best and worst urban planning. It’s time to step on the positive side by honoring the story that the whole world already thinks is special.
John William Templeton is the author of Come to the Water: Sharing the Rich Black Experience in San Francisco.