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Willie L. Brown Jr.
Mayor of San Francisco
Former Fillmore Resident

Willie L. Brown Jr.
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Video Credit: KQED 1999

 

 

Fillmore Victorians
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Photo Credit: San Francisco Redevelopment Archives


On His Arrival in San Francisco

When I arrived in California in August of 1951, the first place I lived was in the Western Addition at 1028 Oak Street near Divisadero. Every morning I would walk in a different direction from the house. I wandered all over the city, but particularly all over the Western Addition. You can imagine a little kid from Minneola, Texas seeing these incredible structures: these two or three story Victorians, the magnificent hillsides with these rows of houses. It was something unusual and magical. I thought every street was a bridge when you looked at them at night; they were so well-lighted. It looked like a span on a bridge. That's what it looked like to me.

On the Impact of Redevelopment on the Fillmore

The community was devastated. The churches began to lose populations. The black businesses, which were once wonderful and productive, were totally destroyed. The entertainment world for African Americans virtually ceased to exist in San Francisco. It was a devastating blow to African Americans in San Francisco, a blow from which we, frankly, have never really recovered. There is no true African American community comparable to what it was in the Fillmore. This great life, that was comparable to the Harlem Renaissance, was destroyed by the redevelopment process in the Fillmore.

 

 

Fillmore Redevelopment
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Photo Credit: San Francisco Redevelopment Archives

 


Fillmore Community
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Photo Credit: San Francisco Redevelopment Archives

 

On the African American Community in the Fillmore

It was a black community from about Bush to Fulton Street on Fillmore. There were many black barber shops. There were barbecue pits all over the place. There were stores that were as interesting and important as the ones in Union Square except they carried goods that primarily blacks would purchase and use. The banks had black tellers in them. The bars were basically owned and operated by black people. You had the Texas Playhouse, the Blue Mirror, the Booker T. Washington Hotel, the Virginia and Kansas City Hickory Pits, the Big Glass, Jimbo's Joint. You had places where black people gathered no matter where they resided in San Francisco. That was what Fillmore Street was like in those days.

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