Oakland's Waterfront History

Taking a boat cruise is a great way to learn about the East Bay's waterfront history.

As a librarian who specializes in history, I’m always looking for new places and interesting ways to learn Oakland history. Particularly fascinating to me is Oakland’s geography. You can really learn history when you physically put yourself where history happened. To learn more about Oakland’s storied waterfront, I recently joined a boat tour sponsored by Liam O’Donoghue, the popular and widely respected podcaster of East Bay Yesterday. This two-hour history tour was filled with interesting anecdotes about the region’s environmental, cultural, and industrial history.

Taking off from the Emeryville marina on the fishing boat Pacific Pearl with about 26 passengers, Liam shared a few amazing geological details about the bay. Ten to fifteen thousand years ago the East Bay shoreline we know today was thirty miles west! The San Francisco Bay was just a valley fed by rivers whose headwaters were in the Sierras. Erosion and glaciers carved out the bay that we recognize today. The Ohlone, the earliest inhabitants of the region, lived on an abundance of

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Black Matters: the World of Afrofuturism

The Main Library sponsored a program that explored the rich, creative and affirming landscape of Afrofuturism.

On Thursday, April 22, the Oakland Public Library hosted a virtual program with filmmaker, curator and visual artist Celia Peters in which she spoke about the origins, development, and current popularity of Afrofuturism. Click here to watch

Using images from art, fashion, literature, and clips from music and films, she illustrated that Afrofuturism is a multidisciplinary, wide-ranging creative movement that centers Black history and culture. Ms. Peters cited the cosmologies of Nigeria, Mali, and Egypt as major influences, “cultures that show up in the DNA of Afrofuturism.”

Afrofuturism places Black protagonists and experiences at the center of a song, painting, story, or film. With the phenomenal international success of the film “

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Remembering César Chávez 

Books, DVDs and electronic resources on the life and work of César Chávez created by OPL librarian Dorothy Lazard.

March 31st is César Chávez Day. In honor of the civil rights and labor movement activist (1927-1993), this week's Oakland Grown post features books, DVDs and e-books, highlighting his life and work.

From the Jaws of Victory Strike!

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Black Women and Political Leadership

The Oakland History Center commemorated Black History Month by hosting "Black Women and Political Leadership," a program to honor the dedicated and innovative work Black women accomplish.

On February 3, to commemorate this important moment in our history, the Oakland History Center hosted a panel discussion featuring Women of Color Resource Center co-founder Linda Burnham, newly elected Oakland District 3 councilwoman and Moms4Housing co-founder Carroll Fife, author and Black Panther Party newspaper editor Judy Juanita, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. The event was a special one with these women discussing the hard, collaborative work that makes a movement, defining allyship, outlining challenges women activists face, and sharing insights about where we go from here.

The recording of the event can be found here. For library books and other resources about Black women claiming political power, see our latest bibliography here

The year 2020 will go down in American history as the year Black women rose

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Japanese-American Internment Remembrance & Online Discussion with George Takei

For this year's Day of Remembrance, the annual commemoration of the tragic internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Bay Area filmmakers Abby Ginzberg and Ken Schneider are offering a for one week a free online presentation of their powerful documentary, "And then they Came for Us." The film will be available free online for a week (Feb. 12 - Feb. 19) in advance of webinar about the production and the internment featuring actor George Takei. The webinar takes place on Feb. 19, from 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. PST.

Enjoy a free online screening (from Feb. 12 through Feb, 19) of the compelling and powerful 51-minute documentary film "And Then They Came for Us," by co-directors Abby Ginzberg of the East Bay and Ken Schneider of  San Francisco. The run of free screenings will culminate in a virtual discussion (on Feb 19, from 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.) in webinar form of the film and the circumstances and outcomes of the Japanese-American Internment during World War II. For the webinar, the filmmakers will be joined by actor George Takei & Satsuki Ina, internees who are featured in the film. (Besides his activism, Takei is well-known for his historic and unforgettable role serving on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise in the original television series "Star Trek.")


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Oakland Main Library turns 70!

The Main Library marks its 70th birthday on January 7.

Seventy years ago, on January 7, 1951, Oaklanders gathered shoulder to shoulder on 14th Street in numbers that made traffic impassable to be the first ones to visit a new, modern library. The previous Main Library, the handsome Carnegie building located on 14th and Grove (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Way), was nearly 50 years old and too small to accommodate the population which had exploded during the Second World War. After years of citizens campaigning for a larger library, a bond measure was passed in 1945 to finance the new library.

The new central library was to be located on a key block of the planned Civic Center, a municipal district that clustered government agencies and cultural organizations around the western end of Lake Merritt. To make way for the project, several houses and an old music conservatory had to be torn down. Designed by the firm of  Miller and Warnecke, the library construction didn’t begin until 1948. The cornerstone was laid by the Native Sons of the Golden West in May 1949. The firm of Stolte, Inc. won the construction

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The Afro-American Association: Forerunner to the Panthers

Founded in 1962, the Afro-American Association taught African Americans history, race pride, and self-reliance, and had a significant influence on the founders of the Black Panther Party.

Of all the topics people come to the Oakland History Center to research, few subjects are more popular than the Black Panther Party. If Oakland has contributed anything to society that is internationally known, it’s the Black Panthers. So many books, articles, dissertations and films have been written about them, and deservedly so. But the Panthers did not spring--as many researchers assume--wholesale from the earth, without influences, mentors or predecessors. Taking them out of their historical context may not reduce their luster, but it certainly compromises the story of Black liberation struggles in America. One of the Panther’s key influences was a local organization called the Afro-American Association (AAA).

Founded in 1962 by a group of graduate and law students at UC Berkeley, the Afro-American Association’s central mission was to educate African Americans about their history. The founding members--Donald Warden, Donald Hopkins, Otho Green, and Henry Ramsey--knew that many of the obstacles that faced their community were due to lack of self-knowledge. They

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Oakland Public Library Launches Playlist to Help You Find New Books and More

Video tutorials to help you find books in OPL's online catalog.

Have you been wondering how to find new books in Oakland Public Library's catalog? We've created a brief tutorial that shows you how.

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Publish Your Own E-Books for Free

Bilblioboard and the Black Caucus of ALA 2020 Self-Publishing Award: Create your own eBook, share with libraries, and possibly even win a prize. A post written by 81st Avenue branch manager, Brian G.

If you’ve ever written a memoir, a novel, a collection of poems, short stories, or anything else that could be considered a book, you may have wondered how you can share it with your community.

With Biblioboard, local authors can share their work electronically with their communities through their library. Biblioboard allows you to create your work, share it, and discover works by local, independent authors. You can also win awards and honors, such as inclusion in the Independent Author Project's Select Collection or a self-publishing award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.


With BiblioBoard’s

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How Does Your Garden Grow? Seed Saving Books and Tips

OPL has books to help you get started saving seeds.

Did you plant a garden last spring? Throughout the COVID-19 crisis many people decided to grow their own food for the first time. Others have been growing their own vegetables for years. Whether you're a novice gardener or a seasoned one, you may be interested in making seed saving part of your gardening routine. Seed saving is a way to keep the food supply in the hands of the people rather than large companies and it's also a way to help you save money. Oakland Public Library has books to get you started.

Seed Saving

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