I came to California
on the same train that brought the war workers. I arrived here October
the 16th, 1942. The train was loaded with people with paper bags
and cardboard boxes and gunny sacks. They were the people who were
coming out to man the war industry. The train was crowded with all
kinds of people but there was a large contingent of blacks. In those
days a ticket to California for a lot of people from the south was
bounty from heaven. We arrived in Oakland and took the ferry from
Oakland to San Francisco. And the Bay was filled with warships.
As you came across it, you could see them anchored all around the
In 1952, I left
the Western Addition after ten years. Drugs were beginning to percolate
in the area. One day my son came home using some very foul language.
He didn't know what he was saying. I said this is the time for us
to leave, because I'm the type of father who thinks there is no
place on Earth too good for my family. There was no special reason
why the black community started using drugs. Everybody used drugs,
but black people's business is in the street. All of our medical
problems are in the street. They had no more drugs than Pacific
Heights or Broadway but our use of drugs was on the street more,
in the public record, at the county hospital. You also had a group
of people who found it more difficult to manage their behavior,
who were less protective of who saw them using drugs.
the Blight in the Fillmore
went to dinner on Hayes Street. Those beautiful houses on Hayes
Street were just like those houses in the Fillmore district. If
you go around the corner where we used to live on Pine Street, that
house is renovated. Somebody came in about ten years ago and began
to gentrify the whole area, to put some money into the house. Now
you can't buy that house for less than a million dollars. So those
houses that were considered blighted were the same houses that are
on Hayes Street. They just needed to be cleaned and updated. San
Francisco was never blighted.
up in the middle of cities all over the country. For the most part,
they are tenants. The properties have been overused because blacks
could not live anywhere else. The neighborhoods were poorly serviced
by the police and garbage departments. So black cities all over
the country showed less upkeep than anywhere else in the city. Urban
Renewal developed to get rid of blacks in the central part of the
city. Urban Renewal got rid of anybody in the way of using that
property to make bigger buildings.