Feb 1, 2023 - Things to Do

Celebrate Black history in San Francisco

Illustration of the state of California lit by red, green and yellow lights.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Happy Black History Month!

What's happening: We've rounded up some events in San Francisco to celebrate the occasion.

  • But first, some history.

Flashback: Historian Carter G. Woodson is credited with making Black History Month a thing.

  • Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, in 1915.
  • In February 1926, the group sponsored a national Negro History week to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass.
  • That weeklong event evolved into Black History Month, thanks in part to the civil rights movement.
  • In 1976, then-President Ford officially recognized Black History Month as an "opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments" of Black people throughout history.

Zoom in: San Francisco's Fillmore District was known as the Harlem of the West in the 1940s and '50s, with its bustling jazz scene and sizable Black population.

  • The city-led redevelopment of the 1960s and '70s, however, displaced an estimated 10,000 Black people from the Western Addition, including the Fillmore, Hoodline reports.

By the numbers: While census data shows San Francisco's overall population has increased since 1990, its Black population has dwindled.

  • San Francisco had just over 720,000 people in 1990 and was 10.9% Black. In 2021, with an estimated population of 815,201, SF's population was 5.7% Black.
  • The Black population is the only racial group in the city that has consistently declined in every census count since 1970, a 2020 San Francisco Human Rights Commission report shows. The report cites a "trend of discriminatory practices" among landlords and property management companies that resulted in Black people looking for housing outside of the city.
  • Between 2013 and 2017, about 18% of the Black residents who left San Francisco moved to Alameda County, a Quartz analysis shows. Around 45% went to other nearby areas, such as Contra Costa and Sacramento counties, and other places with lower costs of living.

What's next: San Francisco's Board of Supervisors is holding a public hearing Tuesday regarding the city's plans to address the issue of reparations for its remaining Black residents.

In the meantime, there's much learning and celebrating of Black culture to be done. Here are some events that caught our eye.

The San Francisco Public Library: "More Than a Month"

  • Focused on the theme of resistance, the SFPL's celebration features meditation, poetry readings, film screenings, book clubs and more.

Black History Month Kickoff

  • The African American Historical & Cultural Society is hosting an official Black History Month kickoff and parade this Friday starting at City Hall at noon.
  • And don't miss the organization's genealogy workshop for Black residents on Feb. 18.

Tsitsi Dangarembga & Angela Davis in conversation

  • Co-presented by the Museum of the African Diaspora, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis on Feb. 28 at the Sydney Goldstein Theater. Tickets are available here.

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