Harlem of the West – The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era

Local historians tell the story of the bustling years when the Fillmore district was bursting at the seams with jazz, music clubs flourishing, black-owned businesses thriving. Maya Angelou gives us a peak at this era in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, but the researchers dive a lot deeper in this book. Filled with photographs and interviews with people who lived in the area during that time, it’s a great resource for capturing the wisps of history that were about to flit away into forgottenness as the residents age and pass away. Tragically, this area was the target of the ill-fated Redevelopment effort that razed Victorians and plopped down a 6-lane highway (Geary), essentially destroying the community. It’s mesmerizing to look at the photos and see everyone dressed to the nines to go out, a strong self-supporting black community with obvious pride in itself. The feeling from the photos does evoke Harlem. The interviews and snippets were a bit too scattered and piecemeal for my taste – every few sentences I was getting jolted about to someone else’s perspective, and having to read that person’s quick bio sketch. Other pain point is the grammatical error (I know, I know) in the dedication. Pepin dedicates it to her husband “who’s love makes all things possible.” I guess the only thing it doesn’t make possible is a competent editor.