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Book sheds light on Santa Clara County's black pioneers

Original post made on Feb 22, 2019

Author Jan Batiste Adkins' newly released book traces the history of local people of African heritage and their roles in everything from agriculture and technology to politics and education.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 22, 2019, 8:06 AM

Comments (17)

Posted by A Black Man Speaketh
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 22, 2019 at 9:58 am

from the PA Weekly article...

> (photo caption) Students pose in front of a school for black children. Many local children attended the San Jose School for Colored Children, which operated from 1865 to 1874.

>> California was a so-called 'free state' yet Santa Clara Valley discriminated against people of color by having a separate school for 'colored children' even during the Reconstruction period? The same went for San Francisco except that the Chinese were excluded from attending public schools. So much for ethnic equality. Local white residents were blatantly racist even back then. No different than in the South. But in all fairness, even Boston, MA (a northern area) was racist towards African-Americans. Just ask any black person originally from there.


> "The earliest of these residents were porters who lived on Fife Avenue in Mayfield near the Stanford train station, which served as a stop between San Francisco and Monterey, Adkins said."

>> Others were domestic workers in neighboring homes, working for well-to-do white families. And now Fife is an expensive neighborhood for the PA affluent.


> "I kind of assumed there were restricted convenants there because that was the case throughout the Bay Area. That did not surprise me. But what did surprise me were the Joseph Eichler homes."

> The Palo Alto real estate developer did not discriminate. He built homes and established nondiscriminatory policies in the 1950s, she said."

>> Correct. But how many African Americans did one see living in Eichlers? Most of them eventually settled in the South Palo Alto Ventura neighborhood where they were accepted as PA residents.


> "That's why in the 1950s and '60s many African-Americans (as well as other ethnic groups) moved from their original communities along Ramona, Homer, Channing, Bryant, Cower and Fulton streets into other neighborhoods once restricted to white residents, she added"

>> As the domestic & SP porter jobs diminished, the blacks were eventually forced to relocate & encouraged to seek residency in other 'acceptable' parts of Palo Alto. How many African-Americans reside in Crescent Park, Old Palo Alto & Professorville? Let's get real.

The historian paints too rosey a picture as Palo Alto's African-American residency is only about 10% of the city's population and historically, African-Americans were only accepted/tolerated to perform menial tasks for the wealthier white community.


Posted by Filapina/Redwood City
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2019 at 2:15 pm

> The historian paints too rosey a picture as Palo Alto's African-American residency is only about 10% of the city's population and historically, African-Americans were only accepted/tolerated to perform menial tasks for the wealthier white community.

The same can be said of other minorities in Palo Alto pre-WW2 & into the early 1970s. It was only after their children achieved college educations that things started to change a bit. Before then, civil service provided an alternative as did the medical & dental professions...for some. Hewlett-Packard was an equal-opportunity employer but minorities were never allowed to ascend into the upper management ranks.

Prior to that period, most minorities residing in Palo Alto were employed as laborers, gardeners, domestics or ran service businesses (i.e. dry cleaners/laundry
services, nurseries etc.).

Palo Alto has always been subtle in its racism but if one knew their place, a minority individual could co-exist without hassle.

The racism is still prevalent today & directed towards the increasing number of newer residents from China who are establishing residency in Palo Alto. There's a quiet, unspoken resentment among some but it is restrained by PC considerations & the fact that many of these new residents are far wealthier than many Palo Altans who have been here for awhile.


Posted by Eugenio
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2019 at 10:25 am

I would also like to see a book written about the contemporary Mexican-Americans who helped build Palo Alto...with their backs as street and construction workers.

Janitorial services at the various office complexes should also be included.

Why is it that recognition primarily goes to certain individuals of certain ethnic backgrounds?

It is like a general getting full or entire credit for winning a battle.


Posted by Jacob Lee
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2019 at 8:03 pm

>>The racism is still prevalent today & directed towards the increasing number of newer residents from China who are establishing residency in Palo Alto. There's a quiet, unspoken resentment among some but it is restrained by PC considerations & the fact that many of these new residents are far wealthier than many Palo Altans who have been here for awhile.

[Portion removed.]

For many wealthy Chinese from overseas, Palo Alto is a very affordable community with excellent public schools & close proximity of high-end shopping.


Posted by Ummm
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 23, 2019 at 9:05 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Ali Khalid
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Middle Easterners have also been overlooked in the contemporary history of Palo Alto.

Upon our arrival to the midpeninsula, we have opened delicatessens, restaurants & liquor stores which contribute to the growing economy of the SF Bay Area.

When will we receive some credit for the efforts we have expended towards enhancing the lives of countless local residents?


Posted by Changes On the Horizon
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 25, 2019 at 12:36 pm

Judging by some of the follow-up responses... while it is admirable (as well as significant) that the various contributions & legacies of midpeninsula African Americans have been acknowledged, other ethnic groups are often conspicuous by their absence in historical documentary presentations.

Whether this exclusion is due to ignorance or pervasive racism cannot be established as there will always be deniers along with those who are unaware.

Some might even profess that Leland Stanford was an equal opportunity employer as he had many people of color working for him as laborers on 'the farm' including those of Native California Indian, Mexican & Chinese decent. Whether they were well-paid or hired purely as cheap labor is for the historians to determine & verify.

In any event, wealthy white midpenisulans often looked down on minority peoples as did the white middle & working classes. Palo Alto is no different.

The wealthy Chinese from overseas are changing the residential landscape of Palo Alto & in time, they will have a far larger voice in local politics & school district policy than ever before in the history of this area.


Posted by justine/justin
a resident of University South
on Feb 25, 2019 at 11:40 pm

and we mustn't overlook the vast contribution that the LGBT community has made to the sf bay area as well.



Posted by Rolanda
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2019 at 12:22 pm

African-Americans also deserve credit for their contributions to the emergence of East Palo Alto as a major black community.

Before their arrival, EPA was predominantly white but unlike Palo Alto, the city welcomed its new residents of color.


Posted by Willis
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2019 at 2:10 pm

> Before their arrival, EPA was predominantly white but unlike Palo Alto, the city welcomed its new residents of color.

An older resident in EPA have told me that East Palo Alto became a predominantly black community because the white residents began leaving en masse when more blacks began moving into the neighborhood.

She even said that at one time EPA was called Nairobi in honer of the capital of Kenya. That speaks volumes in terms of the demographics at the time.


Posted by and after that
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 27, 2019 at 2:27 pm

The following demographic exit was by many black families when the area transitioned to predominantly Hispanic.


Posted by And After That Part II
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2019 at 5:29 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by EPA & PA Are Different Cities Altogether
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2019 at 1:56 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Why No Street Fairs In EPA?
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2019 at 2:32 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Too Dangerous/Risk Factors
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2019 at 5:05 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Local Historian
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2019 at 1:20 pm

> An older resident in EPA have told me that East Palo Alto became a predominantly black community because the white residents began leaving en masse when more blacks began moving into the neighborhood.

Did this lead to EPA's eventual economic decline & lack of progress?


Posted by A Black Man Speaketh
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 3, 2019 at 3:43 pm

> Did this lead to EPA's eventual economic decline & lack of progress?

Housing prices dropped dramatically during the transition period from white to black residency in EPA & this demographic change was also reflected in property tax revenues which goes to finance infrastructure expenditures.

Less money coming in = less civic improvements including adequate funding for law enforcement.

As a result, the neighborhood got run down & crime prevention became more difficult to maintain.


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