Reporter’s Notebook: Where to Learn More About Black History and Reparations in San Francisco  

Eight historical booklets are spread out on top of several black and white photos of Black Americans in San Francisco protesting for civil rights in the 1960s. The pamphlet at the center of the table is titled "What We Want" and has a black-and-white photo of it's author Stokely Carmichael, who later changed his name to Kwame Ture. To its right is a lime green and white pamphlet called "America's Racist Laws" by Herbert Aptheker. Other pamphlet titles include "Behind the Lynching of Emmet Louis Till," ""Complete Equality: Democracy and the Negroes," and "Will the Negro Get Jobs Now?".

Madison Alvarado/San Francisco Public Press

The San Francisco Public Library has a wealth of resources focused on African American history and the Black community’s struggle for equality, in addition to primary sources such as historical pamphlets, photos and zines.

For a journalist covering reparations for Black people in San Francisco, June is big. The city’s highly anticipated reparations plan is scheduled to be released at the end of the month. And we are just a few days from Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the day in 1865 when a group of enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas learned that the Union had won the Civil War, and that they were free — 2 1/2 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

In recent months, I’ve had the chance to delve into the history of movements for racial equity and reparations in the United States, as well as the rich stories of San Francisco’s two historically African American neighborhoods — the Fillmore and Bayview-Hunters Point.

When I set out to do this reporting, I spoke with Shawna Sherman, who manages the African American Center at the San Francisco Public Library, for some reading recommendations. In addition to books, periodicals and documentaries, the library’s collection includes a trove of primary sources. Sherman’s guidance was extremely helpful.

“The purpose of the African American Center is just to support African Americans in the city with resources to help them better their lives and just learn more about their history and things like that,” she said.

Given the upcoming holiday and impending release of the city’s reparations plan, I want to share Sherman’s book recommendations along with other resources I relied on as I reported on the history of San Francisco’s historically Black neighborhoods and the local movement for reparations.

There are many other resources to explore beyond what what we’ve included in this list. We welcome your recommendations in the comments section.


  • “Pioneer Urbanites: A Social and Cultural History of Black San Francisco,” by Douglas Henry Daniels 
  • “Our Roots Run Deep: The Black Experience in California, Volumes One and Two,” edited by John William Templeton* 
  • “Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Equality in the West, 1900-1954,” by Albert S. Broussard 
  • “City for Sale: The Transformation of San Francisco,” by Chester Hartman 
  • “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-first Century,” by William A. Darity 
  • “Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History,” by Ana Lucia Araujo 
  • “Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era,” by Elizabeth Pepin Silva and Lewis Watts* 
  • “Black Nationalism in the United States: From Malcom X to Barack Obama,” by James Lance Taylor* 
  • “Fillmore Revisited — How Redevelopment Tore Through the Western Addition,” a chapter by Rachel Brahinsky from the anthology ​​“Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968-1978,” edited by Chris Carlsson and Lisa Ruth Elliott*

*Books marked with an asterisk were recommended by people I interviewed or brought to my attention during reporting.


Podcasts and Oral Histories: 



  • An interim report by the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans 
  • A draft reparations plan by the San Francisco African American Reparations Committee 

City-Sponsored Presentations and Panels: 

You can learn more about the history of Black San Franciscans and access other materials by visiting the African American Center on the third floor of the Main Library Branch at 100 Larkin St. or by reviewing the center’s recommended reading lists online.

Public Press reporting on reparations:  

Update: Additional items were added a few hours after this page was published.

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