A Brief History of Oakland's Madison Square

Madison Square has been home to the Chinese community since the 1860s.

Madison Square, originally called Caroline Square, was one of seven public squares in the early days of Oakland. The residential district that grew up around it makes up the residential end of Tong Yan Fow--Chinatown--and has housed the Chinese community since its earliest days. By 1860, there were 200 Chinese residents out of a total population of 1500 in Oakland. 

In 1882 President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act which prohibited Chinese workers from coming to America and denying citizenship to those Chinese nationals already living and working here. This act suppressed the Chinese population in America for decades; Oakland’s Chinatown was no exception. There was widespread housing and employment discrimination. Few white employers would hire Chinese except as houseboys or agricultural workers. Even the refugee camp along the shores of Lake Merritt after the Great Quake of ‘06 was racially segregated with

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The Oakland Public Library celebrates 50 years of Oakland A's Magic

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Oakland Athletics.

Before the arrival of the Oakland A's, baseball in the town had withered to Little League and play on school yards. The Oakland Oaks franchise had outgrown its ball park in Emeryville by 1957. The team was dismantled and relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, and rebranded the Vancouver Mounties.

Charles O. Finley, a Chicago-based businessman, who had bought the Kansas City Athletics in 1960, was eager to leave Kansas City after a few short years because he felt the community did not offer the financial support or promotion he thought the team deserved. Major League Baseball officials denied Finley's efforts to relocate the team to a better market and forced him to sign a three-year lease, then a four-year lease. He also had a contentious relationship with the Kansas City press and with fans. 

In 1967 when his lease expired Finley moved the team to Oakland. He listed four reasons for choosing Oakland:

  • The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum sports complex provides the finest facilities
  • The Bay Area climate is ideal for baseball
  • The

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Women Bike Book Club: Now We are Two

A booklist from the Women Bike Book Club, meeting at the intersection of bikes, books, and feminism on the first Thursday of the Month at the Golden Gate Branch library.

In the spring of 2016, Bike East Bay created The Women Bike Book Club as part of an initiative called Women Bike, which aims to “encourage and inspire more women, trans and femme folks to ride bikes.” In January 2017, the library began co-sponsoring this club.

We've been meeting for over two years now! We discuss experiences and issues, and sometimes we do a little coloring too. While the focus of this group is women and biking, everyone is welcome to join.

Last year we posted our one year list, so we thought we'd do it again this year.  Here is everything we read (or watched or did):

            

April 2017

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The Spring Travel Series Educates and Inspires Those with Wanderlust

Oakland Main Library's 12th Annual Spring Travel Series begin May 16 at 6 p.m.

Though you’d never guess it from our cloudy skies, epic hail storm, and chilly temperatures, Spring is here. And at the Main Library, that means the annual Spring Travel Series is about to launch! For the past twelve years, local travelers have learned how to travel safely, economically, efficiently and responsibly by attending these captivating talks.

Travel guidebook writers, travel photographers, tour guides, and our own well-traveled librarians have shared their expertise, funny stories, packing tips, and words of wisdom. Over the past dozen years we have treated East Bay residents to travel programs about a variety of interesting places including Southeast Asia, Italy, Cuba, Greece, Mexico, Croatia, Seattle, Kenya, and the American Southwest.

Travel not only provides us with much-needed breaks from our routines, but also educates, inspires and expands our perceptions of the world. As we head out into the world, we are cultural ambassadors, teaching others we encounter on the road about our cultures as much as they are informing us

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Women Bike Book Club: Podcast Edition

Bike month is just around the corner! Get ready with some good podcasts.

The Women Bike Book Club (co-presented by Bike East Bay) meets at 6 pm on the first Thursday of the month over at the Golden Gate Branch Library. We gather to discuss biking, feminism, and the intersection of the two.

We’ve previously posted a couple lists of our favorites - all of the books we read in our first year, and some books for kids who bike.

We’ve got another list for you - podcasts! Here are a few of the ones we’ve been interested in:

Joyride 

Taped in Chicago, Joyride

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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

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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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