Alum Amy Alexander: Whither Black San Francisco, from a Native's Perspective

Friday, February 27, 2015
Photo of Amy Alexander

SF WEEKLY -- Growing up in San Francisco, I never felt out of place or otherwise special for being a black native. That isn’t the case any longer. I’ve seen fewer residents and workers who look like me.

I know from my family’s trajectory, and from the California history lessons I absorbed during high school in the Sunset District and as an undergraduate at San Francisco State, that long before Willie Mays and Willie Brown came to typify “black San Francisco,” thousands of African Americans had lived, worked and raised families here. Since the 1800s, blacks like William T. Shorey, a celebrated whaling-ship captain, came to Northern California for the same reason people flock to San Francisco today — for employment. And like recent emigres who arrived here from Denver or Bangalore, New York or Shanghai, blacks for more than 100 years continued to pour into the Bay Area for economic opportunities, and they stayed to raise families.