By Marco Frazier - Library Assistant
African American Museum and Library at Oakland
“Nevertheless She Persisted” is the national theme for Women’s History Month 2018. The theme honors women who have fought against discrimination throughout history. African Americans women have carried the scarlet letter of discrimination for being both women and African American. The Archives Department at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland has many collections and interviews that highlight the trials, tribulations and triumphs that resulted from women fighting for equal rights.
Frances Albrier is an example of persistence leading to opportunity. With the outbreak of World War II, African American men joined the military to fight the enemy abroad. As labor shortages arose, employers found themselves in need of workers to work in bay area shipyards. Albrier applied to work as a welder at Richmond Kaiser Shipyard after completing double the amount of training that her male counterpart had performed.
“I felt I had to be better because I was a black woman.” –Frances Albrier
As qualified as Albrier was, she found herself unable to find a job because African Americans were not welcome to join white unions. Albrier threatened to sue which led to auxiliary unions being created for African Americans to join so they could go to work. Due to Albriers’ persistence President Roosevelt later signed Executive Order 8802 outlawing discrimination by companies seeking government contracts.
Dorothy Reid Pete
Mrs. Dorothy Pete grew up in South Berkley and graduated from Berkeley High School. She had dreams of becoming a secretary, but due to the color of her skin could not find employment. For many years, the YMCA and YWCA were “white only” organizations. African Americans were not welcome in these facilities. However, they could authorize the establishment of ‘colored only” facilities that functioned as branches of the larger Y’s. Upon learning of a position at the Linden Street Branch of the YMCA she inquired and eventually was hired.
The Linden Street branch, a black YWCA where Pete was allowed to work, offered programs such as adult education, religious and vocational training to single young African American adults. This branch also provided social, recreational, and cultural activities. With the encouraging of Lula Chatmon, supervisor at the Linden Negro Branch, she decided to apply to work at the Downtown Oakland YMCA. Reid became the first African American to integrate the Downtown Oakland YMCA where she worked for 15 years. Within a few years, the “Y” programs were integrated nationally.
Alice Royal knew early in life her career would be in nursing. It was a dream of hers that she traced back to her aunt Myrtle Hackett Tibbs. Aunt Tibbs had encountered many obstacles in hopes of becoming a nurse. After being denied the opportunity to do her nursing training in California, she pursued her dream in Montgomery, Alabama. After completing her training in Alabama, Tibbs became superintendent of nurses at Booker T. Washington Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
Alice’s’ aunt, Ms. Grace Hackett became a teacher in the town of Allensworth at the Allensworth School. Allensworth was an all-Black town created by Allen Allensworth, in hopes of creating a community where African Americans could thrive in places where they otherwise would not. Aunt Grace performed her student teaching at Prescott in Oakland, California but as an African American could not be hired there as a teacher. After her training, Grace returned to Allensworth where she became a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher.
Alice attended Highland Alameda County Hospital School of Nursing from 1943 to 1946. She was one of three Black nursing students to live all three years at the nursing school, which was the first Nursing Cadet Corps for a major hospital. This was a federal program set up to train more nurses during the war. Integration resulted from the fight of individuals like Frances Albrier who fought for integration in the medical field. Before Albrier, other nurses would come for training but could not reside on campus. Albriers’ group was the first allowed to stay overnight after the training day was complete.
At Highland Hospital, Royal served as the hospitals head of isolation. She later enrolled at New York University and subsequently received a B.A. in Public Health in 1950. During her time in New York, Alice associated with Black Leadership in the nursing field and the push for integration. When she returned to California, she attended U.C. Berkeley, and in 1972, she received a Master’s in Public Health Nursing Administration. African Americans women have fought and triumphed through adversity for over a century. As we conclude Women’s History Month 2018 we celebrate them and their persistence to overcome roadblocks thrown their way.
For more information on these and other extraordinary African American women please view our collections on the Online Archive of California and Calisphere website.