Elizabeth Scott Flood: Early Oakland Educator

In honor of Women's History Month, we introduce Elizabeth Scott Flood who championed education for Oakland's children of color in the 19th century.

One of Oakland's earliest educators was a woman born in the East but who dramatically changed the racial composition of California schools. Elizabeth Thorne Scott Flood was born free in 1828 in the state of New York. She was educated in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a town known for its political activism. She married Joseph Scott and together they emigrated to California during the Gold Rush and settled in Placerville. Her husband, who worked as a gold miner, died shortly after their arrival, leaving Elizabeth to raise their young son Oliver alone. In the early 1850s she and Oliver moved to Sacramento which had a sizable African American population. When Oliver was barred from attending the local public school, Elizabeth responded by establishing a private school in her home to educate her son and other African American children. This school opened on May 29, 1854. Elizabeth was paid $50 a month by the parents of her pupils. Before long, she was also welcoming Native American and Asian American children into her school.

The following year the

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The Black Arts Movement in Oakland and Berkeley

The Black Arts Movement was a vibrant creative period that has had a lasting cultural impact on the East Bay.

Ever so often a social and political movement merges with an arts movement to create a uniquely vibrant environment that impacts communities for generations. The Black Arts Movement that began in 1967, and reached its zenith in the early 1980s, was such a cultural moment in this country. Two social/political movements would greatly impact the decade: African independence and American Civil Rights. As the Civil Rights Movement in America grew to gain international attention, young and creative people took an increasingly more active role. Their study and acceptance of Pan-Africanism, their identification with the words of Malcolm X and James Baldwin, and their ardent call for Black Power shifted the movement from a conciliatory call for justice to a more forceful call to political action and radical self-determination. Local artists responded by embracing African cultures, rhythms, and design motifs. This was exemplified in their dress, hairstyles, art themes, writing, and performance.

As the Black Arts Movement grew, galleries and cultural centers

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Oakland's Long View of History

The study of African American history has engaged generations of Oaklanders and East Bay residents.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the student movement to institute Black Studies into college curricula. The drive to learn the history of African Americans, a history brutally suppressed during slavery and denied and ignored for decades after slavery, was always present. Decades before the Black Power Movement of the 1960s inspired San Francisco State College students to demand the curriculum be representative, Oaklanders were passing along African American history in formal and informal settings.

Journalist Delilah Beasley, the mother of Black California history, published her groundbreaking book, “Negro Trail Blazers of California” in 1919.  This masterfully documented work includes interviews with former slaves, profiles of civic groups and prominent citizens, and reports from national conferences. Ms. Beasley also wrote for the Oakland Sunshine

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Lifting as They Climbed: Making a Home for African American Seniors

African Americans worked to feed, clothe, and house their seniors in early Oakland.

The forgotten community of Beulah was a district of large, beautiful homes, many of which provided social services to the orphaned, poor and elderly. It was located in what is now East Oakland, just north and east of Mills College. One of Beulah’s most prominent institutions at the turn of the 20th century was the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored People. Retirement homes at the time were racially segregated, accepting whites only, so Oakland’s African American civic and religious leaders came together to establish a home for its seniors and aged homeless.

The Old Peoples Home Association incorporated in 1892 for the purpose of building such a home. Its founding board included several prominent Oakland-based African American women such as Hettie Tilghman, Julia Shorey (shown here with her family), Harriet E. Smith, Ann S. Purnell, and Mary C. Washington. This early board of directors—and those who followed them—sponsored festivals, dances, and concerts to raise

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African Americans Establish a Growing Community in Early Oakland

In honor of Black History Month we celebrate Oakland's pioneering African Americans.

For most of us, the story of African Americans in Oakland begins with the westward migration during World War II. And while that is an amazing history, the story really began nearly 100 years before when Oakland was little more than dirt roads and clapboard buildings. The original town ran along 14th Street over to the estuary, from the tidal slough we know as Lake Merritt to West Street.

The same dreams of personal and economic freedoms that brought whites west drew African Americans to the state. They had come to California to start new lives unharnessed by tradition and restriction. They had come in search of gold. They had come accompanying slave masters. They had come to set down new roots. The first East Bay census, taken in 1852 when the city was founded, recorded that five African American men and one African American woman, and eight foreign-born African American men lived in Oakland. In those early days, African Americans in Oakland worked as sailors, laborers, draymen, barbers, maids, dressmakers, railroad porters, hotel workers, cooks, and waiters.

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OPL Responds: A Booklist for the 2018 Women's March

Need some reading to go with all that marching? OPL has lots of great books on topics such as suffrage, civic engagement, dissenting women, and women in politics.

Saturday, January 20th will be the second annual Oakland Women's March.

Last year the Mercury News reported that 100,000 people marched here in Oakland. The route goes right by the Main library! We hope to have power restored and be open. If you are planning to visit the library on Saturday, please be aware that parking, and even walking, in the area may be difficult. If we are not open, we will have a table outside the library where you can pick up booklists, flyers, and even do a fun craft.

If you're marching (or if you're interested in reading more about issues being highlighted by the march) we've pulled together some books you might want to take a look at. 


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OPL Responds: The Legalization of Recreational Cannabis Use

Prop 64 is in Effect, Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em

Recreational cannabis use is now legal in the state of California!

But what does that really mean?

Oakland librarians are happy to answer your reference questions, or you can go directly to some of these sources:

Curious about the specifics of legality? Need health information?

Let’s Talk Cannabis

The California Department of Public Health shares science-based information about cannabis and how it affects our bodies, minds and health. It also provides quick bulleted info about the new law:

  • Under California law, adults 21 or older can use, carry, and grow cannabis (marijuana, weed, pot).

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Music Survey Extended!

One more week to fill out the OPL Survey on Listening to Music, and one more week to win prizes.

The OPL Survey on Listening to Music, originally slated to close on December 6, has been extended to December 20.

That's right -- you still have one more week to tell us what you'd like to see in the music collection. You can find the survey online: http://oaklandlibrary.org/music-survey or at your local library branch. Copies in Spanish and Chinese are also available at all branches.

Raffle extended too, with one exception...

One of the prizes in the raffle is for tickets to a show that occurs before the extended deadline. The tickets to see FKJ at the Fox Theater on 12/15 will be raffled off today at 6:00 PM. Anyone who has completed the survey by that time -- and included their name and phone number -- will be eligible to win.

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Celebrating Oakland’s Rich Cultural Arts: The Legacy of the Malonga Casquelourd Center

Celebrating Oakland's Rich Multicultural Arts: The Legacy of the Malonga Casquelourd Center


Come to the Oakland Public Library Main now until December 1 to “Give Praise to Life”.  The event features:

The Malonga Center Community Ancestral Installation - If you have never been to “the Malonga” you’re missing out on a historical Oakland jewel. Since the 1920s, this grand building has been the go to place for theatre, special events, multicultural arts, classes and more.  Check out their website http://mccatheater.com/


The Malonga Center, formerly known as the Alice Arts Center, was renamed for renowned

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A Music Survey -- with Prizes!

Help us serve you better by filling out a short music survey, and you'll be eligible to win tickets from local venues.

Blues or bluegrass? Jazz or folk? Streaming, vinyl, CDs ... or cassettes? What are your favorite kinds of music, and how do you listen to them?

We'd like to know more about your listening habits to ensure that our music collection meets your needs. That's why we've created a short survey on listening to music, whether live or recorded. Please take the survey to let us know what you're listening to and how:


Rather write than type? Paper copies are coming to a library near you.

Did you say prizes?

Everyone who completes the survey will be eligible to enter a raffle. Just fill in your name and phone number at the end of the survey to enter. The results will be tallied anonymously, and your information will not be shared.

The raffle is optional, but the prizes are pretty enticing. You could win:

  • A $75 ticket voucher from

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