Unemployment in Black Cities: Oakland, California
9 months ago
As part of our continuing series, we look at black unemployment in the Northern California city.
According to the most recent survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, the West is the region of our country lightest on populations of color. As of 2010, a bit less than 10 percent of this nation’s African American population made their homes there; a number dwarfed by the South (at around 54 percent), and beaten handily by the Midwest (19 percent) and the Northeast (18 percent). All in all, on a comparative basis, the American West just isn’t very “black.”
There are, however, large pockets of African American communities that almost make it seem as if this isn’t the case. One prominent example is Oakland, California. It is a city often described as San Francisco's grittier, younger brother. Nearly 30 percent of Oakland’s 390,000-strong population is African American, a proportion much higher than San Francisco’s six percent, and even the 11 percent to be found in the ethnic stew that is Los Angeles.
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Following a migratory pattern seen in Eastern and Midwestern cities, many African Americans made their way over to Oakland and its environs during a manufacturing boom in the early twentieth century. The city had a big, busy port and - for a time, anyway - was a Western hub of the automobile industry. This opened up the job market to unskilled labor, a category many of those early black arrivals fell into.
Unique opportunities existed for the more educated among the African American workforce. For example, a pioneering black physician, William M. Watts, opened a hospital that exclusively serviced patients of color who were not permitted entry at other Oakland hospitals. Watts' facility also offered training and job positions for nurses of color.