Welcome to the Friends-Stewards
of African American Museum and Library at Oakland Blog!

This blog focuses on uplifting and highlighting the art, history and culture of African Americans in Oakland, Northern California and the African Diaspora. Each post will delve deeper into the many sectors of the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) archives, reference library, museum gallery, and the seed lending library.
We will share and discuss issues of relevance, and engage with our communities through the written word, spoken word, sensory and visual arts. We hope this blog will encourage our community to share their stories, passions, talents, and desires to be the positive change we all want to see. We want to create a safe space that allows critical thinking, insightfulness, ideas, and the sharing of experiences to spark positive social change in Oakland, California, the Nation, and the world.

  • March 07, 2023 9:03 PM | Njeri Kamau-Devers (Administrator)

    In February 2023, the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) celebrated another Black History Month under the theme of Black Resistance. From public museum tours, to a quilting exhibit, a seed workshop and much more, AAMLO lifted up the many ways in which Black people have resisted oppression and continue to resist in this country. I was fortunate to attend the museum tour on February 11th and the Black Resistance: Starting from a Seed Workshop led by Ms. Claudia Noble-Levingston on February 25th.

    During the museum tour, I learned the stories of many Oakland heroes. Did you know that in 1926 Prescott School hired Ida Louise Jackson (1902-1996) making her the first Black teacher to work in Oakland Public schools? Previously, the Oakland Unified School District had denied her application for employment numerous times. It was not that she was unqualified. In fact, by 1924 Jackson had already earned a BA and Masters from UC Berkeley. The Oakland Unified School District at the time simply refused to hire Black teachers. After being hired, Ida was met with hostility and protests; however, she persevered and was still greatly loved by many of the students she taught. Ruth Acty (1913-1998) followed in Jackson’s footsteps. Though she too faced barriers to employment, she went on to teach in El Centro, Berkeley and Monterey. Jackson and Acty were not the only ones who paved the way for Black teachers and students in Oakland through resistance. In 1957, Elizabeth Thorn-Scott (1828-1967) and her husband Isaac opened a school for Black children from their home in Oakland. The tour also featured William Watts (1885-1980) who in 1926 founded Oakland’s first African-American hospital, Royal E. Towns (1899-1990) who in 1941 became the first African-American to serve as chief operator of the Oakland Fire Department, Emmanuel Francis Joseph (1900-1979) the first professional Black photographer in the Bay Area and many others.

    Of course I had to come back for more excitement. At the Black Resistance: Starting from a Seed Workshop, I enjoyed hearing more about Ms. Claudia who is a fourth generation land steward with roots in Virginia. I learned that during the second Great Black Migration from 1940 to 1970, almost six million African-Americans fled the Jim Crow South moving to places like New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle and Philadelphia. Many of them brought seeds to plant black eyed peas, okra, collard greens and other traditional crops. Towards the end of the session, Ms. Claudia showed us how to start our own legacy garden by planting seedlings in paper cartons. We left with plenty of seeds and even sweet, organic homegrown tangerines. Thanks to AAMLO’s seed lending library, my family and I are hoping to enjoy purple tree collards, tomatoes, golden peppers and bush beans later this year.

    Though Black History Month has come to a close, my heart is filled with the stories of Black people who have and are still resisting in Oakland. As a Black woman educator from Oakland, I leave this Black History Month holding my head a little higher, knowing the names of my ancestors who have paved the way for me.

    Works Cited

  • January 15, 2023 8:16 PM | Claudia Noble-Levingston (Administrator)

    The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was no stranger in Oakland, visiting on several noted occasions during his lifetime. These engagements included a historic address delivered at the Oakland Auditorium on December 28, 1962, to a crowd of over 7,000 attendees. Marking the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King expanded on themes that would soon become famous in his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington. As reported by Newsweek and Jet, King used the Oakland centennial address to announce his support for a nationwide selective-buying campaign to boycott products of discriminatory firms.

    Some have written how Dr. King used his Oakland addresses to workshop and refine the messages of later speeches, including his famed expression, “the bank of justice is bankrupt.” Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale recalls the direct impact hearing King's economic remarks had on his thinking (and later Panther boycotts and food survival programs):

    "I went to hear Dr. King speak for the first time in 1962 at the Oakland Auditorium. I was an engineering and design major at college and I wasn't a part of any organization yet. The auditorium held 7000 people and every seat was packed. He was speaking about boycotting the bread companies that were refusing to hire people of color. He said "We're going to boycott them so consistently and so profoundly, we're going to make Wonder Bread wonder where the money went." I got so enthusiastically involved with the civil rights movement after Martin Luther King inspired me." (Bobby Seale interview with Kyle Long, Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers)

    Others have noted how Dr. King’s overall appearances in the Bay Area galvanized Black political thought locally. These visits included stops to Oakland at Evergreen Baptist Church (1957), Mills College (1958), to fundraise for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1961), at Bethel Baptist Church (1967) and to meet with those imprisoned after the October 1967 Stop-the-Draft Week demonstrations. King's final trip to the Bay came in January 1968, when he visited Joan Baez and others who were serving 45-day sentences in Santa Rita Prison for a nonviolent sit-in at the Oakland Draft Board. As Rev. Ray Williams, of Morning Star Baptist Church, told the Oakland Post of King's local public lectures and appearances:

    The predominantly Black audience[s] signaled for a political awakening that set the stage for the elections of Attorney Thomas Berkley and Barney Hilburn to the Oakland Board of Education, and Byron Rumford to the State Assembly.” (Reverend Ray Williams, "Dr. King’s “Bank of Justice is Bankrupt” Speech Was Tested in Oakland in 1962," Oakland Post)

    AAMLO will celebrate the long legacy of Dr. King in Oakland, in person on Monday January 16, 2023.

    This year's feature films are:

    In Remembrance of Martin - Martin Luther King Film Festival and Discussion

    The documentary captures the career and leadership of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement. Included in the film are comments honoring Dr King by Coretta Scott King, Desmond Tutu, John Lewis, Senator Edward Kennedy and more.

    Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. (A Film for Children)

    11:30 AM – 11:45 AM

    This short film for children introduces Dr. King as a young boy that grows into an inspiring man. The film allows children to relate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and introduces them to the serious topic of segregation.

    The March: The Story of the Greatest March in America | Events | Oakland Public Library (

    12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

    The film, "The March" recounts events of the 1963 March on Washington where 250,000 people came together to form the largest demonstration witness.

    Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility | Events | Oakland Public Library (

    1:30 PM – 3:30 PM

    Driving While Black features African Americans sharing their experiences of a sense of freedom and mobility to keep moving forward in their lives. Although the automobile brought mobility and freedom it also exposed them to discrimination and deadly violence.

    American Masters: Maya Angelou, and Still I Rise | Events | Oakland Public Library (

    Join us for a screening of "Maya Angelou: American Masters: Maya Angelou, and Still I Rise". Maya Angelou lived an extraordinary life, raising up from poverty, violence and racism to become a renowned author, poet, playwright and civil rights activist. Maya Angelou became a confidante to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  and Malcom X throughout their civil rights journey.

    4:00 PM – 5:15 PM

    We hope you join us for this year's IN PERSON MLK Film Festival

    Location: 659 14th Street, Oakland, CA  94612

  • October 17, 2022 12:56 PM | Joymara Coleman

    “Advocating for my child enables me to advocate for the inner child inside of me.” - Patrice Sterling, Co-Author of The Moms’ Truth: Authentic Stories of Motherhood.

    On Saturday, September 17 2022, the Friends-Stewards of African American Museum and Library at Oakland (FSAAMLO) gathered to enjoy an iteration of AAMLO’s Meet the Authors Series. We had the pleasure of meeting the authors of The Moms’ Truth: Authentic Stories of Motherhood

    The Moms’ project showcased a collective of African American women advocates and ‘story sharers’ - a term that The Moms’ co-author Briana Dixon introduced us to. Draped in shades of purple attire, authors Marie Gilder, Jazzman Brown, Patrice Sterling, Briana Dixon and Jennifer Thompson graced AAMLO’s second floor gallery space ready to bestow their wisdom upon us. We learned that the authors are natives of the Oakland Bay Area and some of them have held lifelong friendships since grade school. What shined through as most prominent on this afternoon, was the show of sisterhood that bonded them. Evident in the ways that they supported and affirmed each other throughout the event. 

    Each author read excerpts from their respective chapter and left us all hanging onto their every word as they courageously shared insights into their world of maternal intuition, challenges, achievement, loss and transformation. For more information about how to connect with the authors, search Sterling Patrice on Instagram and click the link below if interested in purchasing a copy of the book:

    By Joymara Coleman, MSW

  • April 01, 2022 8:30 PM | Claudia Noble-Levingston (Administrator)

    In celebration of Jazz Appreciation & National Poetry Month 2022

    The Friends-Stewards of AAMLO presents

    Creative Writing Young Author

    Chloe G.M. Fischer-Bouche, Oakland School for the Arts, 8th grade

    Chloe participated and completed the Friends-Stewards of AAMLO 5-week pilot creative writing workshops held at AAMLO in the Fall 2021.  During the creative writing workshops, she penned original work that we are excited to share with you.  

    Chloe loves taking care of animals and playing video games.  What brings her joy is reading and cooking.  At this time, her career goal is to become a Dietician.  She is interested in nutrition education because she likes learning how the body processes food. 

    Chloe participated in an art camp for fashion design and gives back to the community by working as a counselor in training at the Studio One Art Center in the art camp.

    Interview by Janet Noble-Maxwell, Cofounder, FSAAMLO


    Confidence is one thing.  Self-confidence is another thing but on a whole new level.  You gain self-confidence through incidents that have affected you.  Then, you take those moments and turn them into something beautiful.

    One day you could feel your life is falling apart, and the next, you are on top of the world.  Feel as if you could stomp on anyone who decides you are not worthy enough or not good enough.  But in reality, it's just you, not them.  Those people are just side characters in your story.

    Living the life, you imagined for yourself a long time ago.  Hoping this is enough to make you go up.  Hoping to not feel afloat again.  Hoping to grow into something more than just people's standards.  Hoping I can love and cherish myself unconditionally as I wish I had a long time ago.

    Written by Young Author: Chloe G.M. Fischer-Bouche

    Image: Left: Karen Oyekanmi, Vice-President, FSAAMLO; Center: Chloe G.M. Fischer-Bouche; Right: Claudia Noble-Levingston, President, FSAAMLO

    Photo credits: Jalia Noble-Burks, IG: @liadmnd

Mailing Address:
Friends-Stewards of AAMLO
P O BOX 72234
Oakland, CA  94612
Phone:  510-574-7955

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