The Library has an ongoing subscription to Accessible Archives, which provides access to valuable newspaper content, county histories, early periodicals, books, and pamphlets. The collections can be browsed or searched (though the search interface is fairly clunky).
The most recent additions to Accessible Archives include:
- African American Newspapers, Part XIV: The Canadian Observer, 1914-1919
- Invention and Technology in America: American Inventor, 1878-1887
- America and World War I: American Military Camp Newspapers, Parts I and II
Until March 15, the Library has trial access to Black Life in America, This resource consists of two parts: BLA (1704-1877): Arrival in America Through Reconstruction and BLA (1878-1975): Jim Crow Through Civil Rights. Both series are comprised of articles from over 20,000 mostly American, but some international newspapers about all manner of Black life in America.
Please join us for a virtual Black History Month Celebration at UC Berkeley Library! The event is planned for Wednesday, February 23, 2022, from 11:30 am until 1 pm PST / 2:30 pm to 4 pm EST on Zoom.
Webinar Registration: ucberk.li/black-history-month-2022-event
Free and Open to all with prior registration. Please remember to authenticate by signing into your institutional or individual zoom accounts first before trying to register for the event.
I want to thank our Vice Chancellor for the Division of Equity & Inclusion, Dania Matos, who found time out of her hectic schedule to provide the opening remarks. We look forward to welcoming everyone. Please be so kind as to share information about this event with your respective communities of practice.
By Mollie Appel-Turner
On Jan 25, 1972, Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm, representative for New York State’s Twelfth District and the first African American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, announced her candidacy for president. With this announcement, Chisholm became both the first African American to run for a major party’s presidential nomination and also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The UC Berkeley Oral History Center has several interviews that address Chisholm’s trailblazing candidacy. In addition, the Center has numerous interviews with other ground-breaking female politicians.
“Anything that black women do like that, they’re pioneering; they’re the first, or one of the first. Because it takes a lot of guts and militancy and sacrifice to do those things when it isn’t popular.”
— Frances Mary Albrier
Frances Mary Albrier was a woman of numerous accomplishments. A graduate of UC Berkeley, she was an indefatigable opponent of racism, a civil rights activist from the 1920s onward, the first woman elected to Alameda County’s Democratic Central Committee, as well as the first black woman hired by Kaiser Shipyards during World War II. She founded the East Bay Women’s Welfare Club, and her efforts led to the hiring of black women teachers in the Berkeley public schools. Albrier discussed Chisholm’s then-recent candidacy when she was interviewed in 1977 and 1978 as part of a series on women political leaders.
Mrs. Chisholm pioneered when she ran for Congress in New York as a black woman. Anything that black women do like that, they’re pioneering; they’re the first, or one of the first. Because it takes a lot of guts and militancy and sacrifice to do those things when it isn’t popular, and it wasn’t popular for a black woman in the East or anywhere. Now, when Mrs. Chisholm ran for president, she did it again. She’s pioneered the way for [others]. Eventually, we’ll have a woman president of the United States. Those doors have been opened. People had looked at her and they’ve talked about a woman running for president. They heard what she had to say. It will be much easier for the next woman who has the ambition to run for president to do so.
Janet West was also interviewed for the women political leaders series, focusing on her work as a Santa Barbara Board of Education member. In the multi-interview volume Women in Politics Volume II, West spoke about how her experiences as a parent influenced her desire to run for office, and both motivated and informed her decisions as a board member. In her 1972 oral history, West discussed the significance of Chisholm’s then-contemporary candidacy:
I think if you’re talking about a large political office, people have the idea that you know, a woman couldn’t stand up under the pressures and maybe couldn’t take all that guff or whatever it is. I think we really have to overcome that type of thing and I’m not sure how many votes Shirley Chisholm will get just because she’s a woman, certainly not because she’s black but because she’s a woman and I don’t think people really feel that a woman can do all that hard work. It’s a lot of hard work.
Professor Harry Edwards joined UC Berkeley’s department of sociology in 1971. He conducted scholarship in the area of sociology of race and sport and is also renowned for his involvement in the famous Black Power salute on the victory podium at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. In “Harry Edwards: An Oral History,” he discussed his early life and upbringing in addition to his role as a scholar-activist, his time at Berkeley, and his work as a consultant to national football and basketball teams. When he was interviewed as part of the UC Berkeley African American Faculty and Senior Staff oral history project in 2005, Edwards spoke of Chisholm with both the knowledge of a contemporary and the perspective of a sociologist. Edwards discussed Chisholm’s extraordinary independence:
Shirley Chisholm, first of all, she had one phenomenal liability, and what I call it is the Stevenson syndrome. She was extraordinarily bright. She was extremely intelligent. That’s a phenomenal liability in the convention of the American political scene. She also had an independence to her that put her outside of the authoritative black leadership influence and control circle. The authoritative black leadership influence and control circle tried to get her not to run. They did not feel that it was “time” for a black woman to step out and run for President. She ran without the endorsement of the NAACP, without the endorsement of the Congress of Racial Equality, without the endorsement of SCLC, without the endorsement of Operation PUSH and Jesse Jackson. She ran on her own.
Shirley Chisholm is one of many women politicians discussed in the Oral History Center’s collections. The Oral History Center contains a wide variety of interviews on women in local, state, and national politics. For more on ground-breaking female politicians, the Oral History Center’s Women Political Leaders collection contains interviews that cover almost the entirety of the 20th century, from the suffragists onward. Interviewees include March Fong Eu, the first Asian American woman in the United States to be elected to a state constitutional office; Helen Gahagan Douglas, the first Democratic woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; and Hope Mendoza Schechter, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee and an activist for both the labor movement and the Mexican American community. The Oral History Center continues to preserve the histories of women leaders in the political sphere and is currently conducting new interviews with female political leaders in the Bay Area Women in Politics and California State Archives projects. For those who wish to learn more, a good place to start is the Oral History Center’s Women in Politics podcast, which has episodes on a variety of important female political leaders of the twentieth century — at the local, state, and national levels — including Francis Albrier.
Mollie Appel-Turner joined the Oral History Center as a student editor in fall 2021. She is currently a fourth-year history student with a concentration in medieval history.
About the Oral History Center
The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library has interviews on just about every topic imaginable. You can find the interviews mentioned here and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. We preserve voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public.
The National Archives recently released a digitized collection of Confederate Slave Payrolls, 1861-1865 that are part of Record Group 109, War Department Collection of Confederate Records. The records list the names and locations of the slaves whose labor was leased to the Confederacy for a variety of tasks, including digging entrenchments, creating obstructions on rivers, digging potassium nitrate for gunpowder, and providing labor at ordnance factories and arsenals. The payrolls provide the name and usually the place of residence of each slave owner. The information provided about the slave included his or her name, date and place employed, occupation, number of days worked, daily rate of pay, total amount of pay, and name of the Confederate Officer responsible for the payroll. The article “Civil War Confederate Slave Payroll Records” provides more information about the content and organization of the records.
The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is an ongoing oral history project begun in 1993 to record, preserve, and disseminate the stories of African Americans and African-American led groups and movements. The interviewees come from a variety of fields and from across the United States. The high-quality video interviews are broken up into sections with brief summaries of the content, and each section is accompanied by a transcript. The resource can be searched by aspects of historical context, biographical themes, or qualities of the interview.
The Library recently acquired Black Thought and Culture, an electronic collection of approximately 100,000 pages of non-fiction writings by major American black leaders, covering 250 years of history. It also includes a great deal of previously inaccessible material, including letters, speeches, political leaflets, interviews, periodicals, and trial transcripts. Highlights include:
- The transcript of the Muhammad Ali trial
- A full run of The Black Panther newspaper, with full-color images of every page as well as searchable text
- 2,500 pages of exclusive Black Panther oral histories owned by the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation
The California Digital Library is piloting an arrangement with ProQuest that provides access to 45 History Vault modules. At the end of the calendar year, UC may elect to purchase perpetual access to some of this content. Your feedback on which resources are most useful to you is welcome.
In the Library’s A-Z databases list, these resources have been grouped thematically into these categories; in some cases there are links to individual modules that we previously purchased. Once on the ProQuest platform, you can search within a single source or across multiple sources.
ProQuest History Vault – search across all ProQuest History vault collections
American Indians and the American West, 1809-1971 – Contains a large variety of collections from the U.S. National Archives, a series of collections from the Chicago History Museum, as well as selected first-hand accounts on Indian Wars and westward migration.
American Politics and Society – includes the collections: Thomas A. Edison Papers, Law and Society since the Civil War: American Legal Manuscripts from the Harvard Law School Library; Progressive Era: Reform, Regulation, and Rights; Progressive Era: Robert M. LaFollette Papers; Immigration: Records of the INS, 1880-1930; Records of the Children’s Bureau, 1912-1969; New Deal and World War II: President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Office Files and Records of Federal Agencies; American Politics in the Early Cold War: Truman and Eisenhower Administrations, 1945-1961; FBI Confidential Files and Radical Politics in the U.S., 1945-1972; Students for a Democratic Society, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the anti-Vietnam War Movement; American Politics and Society from Kennedy to Watergate
Civil rights and the Black Freedom Struggle – includes the collections: Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Federal Government Records and Supplement; Organizational Records and Personal Papers Parts 1 & 2; and the NAACP Papers
International Relations and Military Conflicts – includes the collections: U.S. Military Intelligence Reports, 1911-1944; U.S. Diplomatic Post Records, 1914-1945; World War I: British Foreign Office Political Correspondence; World War I: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces, and Diplomacy in the World War I Era; Creation of Israel: British Foreign Office Correspondence on Palestine and Transjordan, 1940-1948; World War II: U.S. Documents on Planning, Operations, Intelligence, Axis War Crimes, and Refugees; Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – State Department Intelligence and Research Reports, 1941-1961; Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files, Africa and Middle East, 1960-1969, Asia, 1960-1969, Europe and Latin America, 1960-1969; and Vietnam War and American Foreign Policy, 1960-1975
Southern Life, Slavery, and the Civil War – includes the collections: Slavery and the Law; Slavery in Antebellum Southern Industries; two modules of Southern Life and African American History, 1775-1915, Plantations Records; Confederate Military Manuscripts and Records of Union Generals and the Union Army; and Reconstruction and Military Government after the Civil War.
Women’s Studies – includes the collections: Struggle for Women’s Rights: Organizational Records, 1880-1990; Women’s Studies Manuscripts from the Schlesinger Library: Voting Rights, National Politics, and Reproductive Rights; Women at Work during World War II: Rosie the Riveter and the Women’s Army Corps; and Margaret Sanger Papers: Smith College Collections and Collected Documents
Workers, Labor Unions, and Radical Politics – includes the collections: Labor Unions in the U.S., 1862-1974: Knights of Labor, AFL, CIO, and AFL-CIO and
Workers, Labor Unions, and the American Left in the 20th Century: Federal Records
From the OHC Director…
Berkeley students and researchers from around the country reach out to us, especially during Black History Month, interested in our oral histories with African Americans. We always point people in the direction of our African American Faculty and Senior Staff oral history project, otherwise known as The Originals. And there is a good reason we do that: this project features seventeen lengthy and substantive oral histories with leading and pioneering UC Berkeley scholars and administrators (more on this below). But limiting our reference to this single project does service neither to OHC’s full collection nor to the amazing and accomplished individuals interviewed for other projects or simply based on their own merits. In preparation for this month’s column, I spent a day digging into our collection in an effort to uncover a host of hidden gems — in this case, interviews with African Americans whose living memories date to the early 20th century (at least) and offer first-person insights into the life of a Tuskegee airman, the contours of the West Coast jazz scene, the role of women in the Black Panthers, and much more.
The migration of African Americans from the American South to the industrial centers of Northern California in World War II changed those who moved, along with the places they moved to. Drawn to jobs in places like the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California, these migrants set down their roots in the Bay Area. In some interviews from the Rosie the Riveter / World War Two Home Front oral history project, Black “Rosies” tell about their lives in Jim Crow South, about the migration north and the hope for a better life, and about their experiences working in wartime industries and experiencing both greater opportunity but still discrimination based on race. Of the 197 Rosie project oral history, about a quarter are with African American women and men. It is likely folly to pull out one interview from this group, but I’m certain people will be interested in the story of Betty Reid Soskin, who not only worked in Richmond during the war but decades later became a ranger with the National Park Service at the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Site. Reid Soskin continues to work at the park today — at the ripe young age of 98!
One chapter in the Second World War that tragically demonstrated the enduring power of racism was the Port Chicago Disaster of 1944. The majority of the 320 killed and 340 injured in this accidental munitions explosion were African American. The eight oral histories of the Port Chicago project were recorded in the late 1970s and early 1980s by UC Berkeley scholar Robert Allen (whose life history interview we will be released this spring).
Our documentation of the African American experience in the Bay Area continues well past World War II. In a few major projects, Black East Bay residents — and their neighbors — offer accounts of not only the transformation during war but the important decades that followed. The On the Waterfront project follows several narrators through these decades. In the Oakland Army Base project, we hear from several African Americans (Charles Snipes, Cleophas Williams, Davetta Thibeaux, Ellen Wyrick-Parkinson, Elois Thornton, George Bolton, George Cobbs, Gordon Coleman, Grant Davis, Leo Robinson, Louis Harris, Margaret Gordon, Michael Thomas, Monsa Nitoto, Queen Thurston, and Robert Taylor) about their interactions with base, whether as a member of the military service, an employee of the Department of Defense, or as a resident of the nearby community of West Oakland.
The Civil Rights Movement is documented in our collection (though, admittedly, many more oral histories can be found elsewhere, such as at the Library of Congress), particularly as it
manifest in the San Francisco Bay Area in organizations that likely deserve more attention from researchers. Frances Mary Albrier was elected in the 1930s to the local Democratic Party Central Committee (and was welder during the war) and Terea Pittman became a leader of the NAACP (and many other organizations) in the earliest years of the Civil Rights Movement. The Council for Civic Unity, in addition, was established in the 1940s and was an important precursor to the California Fair Employment Practices Commission; Charles Patterson, in his interview, tells about the organization for which he was an intern before becoming a major figure in the foundation world (along with Ira DeVoyd Hall, who was a leader of the San Francisco Foundation). Orville Luster, who was interviewed in 1975, recalled his leadership of the unique Youth for Service organization which taught disadvantaged youth the skills necessary to be successful at work. And there is always a good deal of interest in the interview we hold with Ericka Huggins of the Black Panthers, which was donated to us by Fiona Thompson.
African Americans, not surprisingly, have played key roles in social justice work beyond the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Henry Clark and Ahmadia Thomas and Carl Anthony were interviewed for their groundbreaking work in the area of environmental justice, while Michael Crawford and John Newsome were interviewed for our large project on Freedom to Marry, or the fight to win marriage equality. For our major project documenting the history of the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movements, we interviewed Chester Finn, Victor Robinson, and others.
Movement politics and protest is one way to force change, building institutions and running for elected office are other avenues pursued by African Americans we’ve interviewed over the years. I encourage you to read through two very interesting oral histories with three influential elected officials, Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson and California State Assemblymen William Byron Rumford and Willie Brown (the second part of Brown’s oral history, covering his terms as San Francisco Mayor, will be released this spring). African Americans have made signal contributions to the law, as well: Cecil Poole, the first African American appointed as a United States Attorney in 1961, later became a distinguished federal judge; Allen Broussard rose up through the ranks of city and county courts, eventually joining the California State Supreme Court in 1981 as an associate justice; and to this day, US District Court Judge Thelton Henderson plays an outsized role in the area of law and civil rights.
Law and politics are only two venues in which an individual can make an impact as the ethos of public service runs through many other institutional domains. Born just over 120 years ago, C.L. Dellums led a life of public service through many offices, perhaps most notably as through his decades as Vice President and then President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. After he had already done important work integrating the department, Robert Demmons was appointed the first African American Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department by Willie Brown in 1996. Everett Brandon might be little remembered today, but as a young man, he was a leader in San Francisco’s War on Poverty programs which brought services and employment to thousands of in the city. In recent decades, Joseph Marshall has continued the work of Brandon and others through his Omega Boys Club / Alive and Free service organization in San Francisco. The spirit of public service thrives in the private sector too. Our interviews with Ron Knox and Amanda Brown reveal how one of the largest private health care providers in the country have fought to improve health outcomes for African Americans.
The Oral History Center has long been committed to documenting our culture well beyond politics, law, and public service — we are deeply interested in the arts and the people who create them. Longtime OHC historian Caroline Crawford held an ongoing interest in documenting African American contributions to the arts, particularly music. Her interviews with Allen Smith (jazz trumpeter), Earl Watkins (jazz drummer), Gildo Mahones (jazz composer and pianist), John Handy (saxophonist, composer, and bandleader), and Jimmy McCracklin (blues singer and pianist).
Finally, I want to bring this back around to education, as this is the root of all good things (dare I say) and I think it is essential for a university to document its role in improving society and creating new possibilities. I very much encourage you to take a deep dive into the African American Faculty and Senior Staff project, perhaps beginning with a 20 minute video we produced a few years back. This project, however, was years in the making and while we refer to this group of early faculty and staff as “the Originals,” the truth is that they weren’t the first. Our interview with Archie Williams is a true hidden gem of the collection. Williams attended Berkeley between 1935 and 1939, which was punctuated by an appearance at the infamous 1936 Olympics in Berlin at which he won a gold medal. Although too old to serve in a combat role in World War II, as a certified pilot he trained the Tuskegee airmen! He went on to a career as a respected educator. Marvin Poston was a student at Berkeley at the same time as Williams and eventually became a widely respected optometrist. In 1958, Robert Gibson was the first African American to earn a doctorate in pharmacy at UCSF, where he became a distinguished member of the faculty. Born in 1920, Emmett Rice earned his doctorate in economics at Berkeley in 1954, before being named to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 1979; it is worth noting that Rice’s daughter is Susan Rice, who served as UN Ambassador and National Security Advisor in the Obama Administration. A graduate of UC Berkeley and San Diego State, Del Anderson Handy had a distinguished career in education, culminating with a term as chancellor of San Francisco City College.
These oral histories represent a meaningful slice of OHC’s interviews with African Americans, but surely not the entirety of the collection. The Oral History Center encourages you to not only explore the interviews listed above, but dig even deeper into our collection, honoring the voices of those African Americans we interviewed by reading their words and absorbing their ideas and experiences.
Martin Meeker, Charles B. Faulhaber Director
The Library has recently acquired the second set of Plantation Records in ProQuest History Vault. The records presented in this module come from the University of Virginia and Duke University. Major collections from the holdings of the University of Virginia include the Tayloe Family Papers, Ambler Family Papers, Cocke Family Papers, Gilliam Family Papers, Barbour Family Papers, and Randolph Family Papers. Major collections from the Duke University holdings document plantation life in the Alabama, as well as South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.