Oakland History is Black History at Children’s Fairyland

Jumell Devaull shaking hands with PoPo the Clown at Children's Fairyland [ 2136 ] 1965-10-23
Jumell Devaull shaking hands with PoPo the Clown at Children's Fairyland, 1965, Oakland Post Photograph collection, MS 169, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library

Little Bo Peep (Ruth Broussard) poses as Children's Fairyland artist Marilynn O'Hare sketches her as Dr. Herman Katz and Robert Elsocht look on circa 1965
Little Bo Peep poses as Children's Fairyland artist Marilynn O'Hare sketches (Dr. Herman Katz and Robert Elsocht look on), circa 1965, Oakland Post Photograph collection, MS 169, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library

Children's Fairyland, opens a new window is celebrating Black History Month with a spectacular visual display, opens a new window highlighting important people, time periods, and movements in the creating and shaping of Oakland’s rich history. OPL's African American Museum & Library at Oakland (AAMLO) has lent historic photographs and archival material to Fairyland's display throughout the month of February.

From Black Panthers to Black Cowboys, you'll discover important African American figures who have helped shape Oakland's rich history. Black history can't be confined to February—nor it it just a part of Oakland's story. Oakland history is Black history.

This is also true of Children's Fairyland itself.

Here are a few of Fairyland's own connections with African American history discoverable in AAMLO's archives. For instance, did you know?

- Storytelling traditions at Children's Fairyland include those from West Africa. For centuries, griots (storyteller-performers) have preserved the history of West Africa in dance, music, and poetry. The Griots of Oakland is one book highlighting the up-and-coming generation of Oakland's young griots.

"Dorries Arnold (Right) Succeeds Fairyland Queen Diane Baptista," p. 71, Oakland Tribune, 02 May 1968
"Dorries Arnold (Right) Succeeds Fairyland Queen Diane Baptista," p. 71, Oakland Tribune, 02 May 1968

- Children's Fairyland has had a Black Santa for decades. Ron Zeno was a longtime Fairyland Santa for nearly 20 years, as well as a Fairyland board member, puppet-show voice artist and a regular reader at Friday Toddler Storytime. After his passing in 2017, December 1 was proclaimed “Ron Zeno Day” by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

- There is a Fairyland-inspired quilt by the African American Quilt Guild of Oakland, made under the artistic vision of Bay Area artist, teacher, and community leader Marion Coleman. The quilt features park icons including Willie the Whale, Magic Keys, and Happy Dragon.

- African American performers at Children's Fairyland have played everything from storybook and nursery rhyme characters to princesses. One of the earliest African American children crowned "Fairyland Queen" was fifth-grader Dorries Arnold in May 1968.


Visit Children's Fairyland Oakland History is Black History, opens a new window for more information on visiting and experiencing the park's historical display, and don't miss many of the exciting Black Culture Fest, opens a new window events coming up at OPL. You can also dive deeper with curated lists of recommended book, opens a new windows brought to you by Children's Fairyland book fairy and in house librarian, Angela.



Amazing African Americans

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Black Joy

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Celebrate Black joy in February and beyond with these fabulous books for babies, toddlers and beginning readers.




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