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Black History Past and Present

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Situated just 42 feet above sea level and encompassing over 56 square miles including 19 miles of coastline to the west and magnificent rolling hills to the east, Oakland, California is a jewel in the Bay Area.

A big part of Oakland’s history—for better and worse—centers around the tumultuous heyday of Black Panther Party.It was here in the 1960s that this radical, progressive, political organization led by Dr. Huey P. Newton, that both galvanized and polarized the Black community and the nation, was born.

Yet the very definition of moving forward is looking at your past and present, to see where you’re going in the future.

Behind the Headlines

I learned a great deal about the Black Panthers at the African American Library & Museum at Oakland. Located in the former Charles S. Greene Library, an architecturally stunning and historic 1902 Carnegie building, the entity is “dedicated to the discovery, preservation, interpretation and sharing of historical and cultural experiences of African Americans in California and the West for present and future generations.”

The Reference Library and 160-plus archive collection here encompasses books, magazines, newspapers, microfilm, videos/DVDs, oral histories and more covering a wide array of educational, historical, political, social and people and subject matter.

The second floor Museum is a captivating lofty space featuring original and traveling exhibits highlighting the art, history and culture of African Americans. Of note are the colorful murals depicting numerous historic black personalities from Oakland and significant figures in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the voluminous, screens imprinted with black and white images of African American Oakland families from back in the day. 

Through the Library and Museum visitors can take part in a wide array of Oakland tours, including their popular Black Panther Tour, drawing travelers of all races from around the world. The tour provides a lot of insight into relatively unknown aspects of the Panther organization such as their influence in establishing a free school lunch program, a safe school intersection initiative, and heightened awareness of Sickle Cell disease which is pervasive in the black community. 

To learn more about the city’s black history—past and present—be sure to visit the African American Library & Museum at Oakland. There’s so much more to Oakland than meets the eye!

Written by Lysa Allman-Baldwin

 

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