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Albert Broussard
Associate Professor of History;
Texas A&M University
Author: Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Equality in the West, 1900-1954

Albert Broussard
watch the movie (380k)

video credit: KQED 1999

 

 

African Americans in the Fillmore
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Photo Credit: William Heike

On the Migration of African Americans to San Francisco

World War II had a greater impact on San Francisco, and perhaps even the United States, than any single event in its history. There was an enormous immigration of not only African Americans but white migrants as well. The San Francisco Bay Area became the leading center of ship building in the entire world, shifting from the Midwest to the Bay Area. Almost overnight, tens of thousands of migrants began pouring into the Bay Area primarily working in the ship building industry. Most people found out about the jobs in San Francisco through word of mouth, from family and friends. African Americans came primarily from the deep South. This is the first major migration of African Americans from the South in its history.

 

On the Consequences of Japanese American Internment on The Fillmore

After the Japanese were relocated and moved out of San Francisco in 1942, African American migrants began moving into their communities. Blacks moved into the area known as Japantown. Housing was available for the first time. They also set up institutions, churches, and storefronts in that community. When the Japanese returned in 1945, not surprisingly, there was a fair amount of tension between the Japanese and the African Americans. Understandably, the Japanese were hurt by the relocation and there was a fair amount of tension between the two communities because African Americans were occupying the houses. Prior to relocation, the relationship was actually a very civil one.

 

 

Japanese American children
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Photo Credit: Public Domain

 

 

Fillmore street after WWII
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Photo Credit: KRON

On The Fillmore After World War II

By 1945, it was clear that the war was coming to an end. The shipyards rapidly began to close down and phase out jobs. Many of the white workers who had worked in the defense industry began moving into permanent jobs. That would not be true for African Americans because the job market had not opened up to them in the same way. This meant that thousands upon thousands of blacks, as they left government defense industry employment, could not find employment at all. Predictably, the black unemployment rate in San Francisco was two to three times higher than the white unemployment rate by 1948. Racial barriers in the trade unions didn't begin to break down until the late 1940s and the 1950s but only after concerted pressure by black and white organizations like the Council for Civic Unity, the NAACP, and the San Francisco Urban League.


On Carlton Goodlett

During the war, there was a new group of leaders, a new black elite. Carlton Goodlett came to San Francisco in the 1930s. He started the black newspaper, The Sun Reporter, in the 1940s. Goodlett unequivocally became a major voice in the black community and nationally recognized by his peers as one of the leading black news journalists in the nation. Many of the articles and editorials that Carlton Goodlett ran in the Sun Reporter dealt with ridding the community of bad elements, ridding the community of juvenile delinquency. This contributed to the tremendous sense that the community was not just important but that it was vibrant and that we were proud of it.

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