San Francisco’s African American Freedom Trail: Marking History with Iconic Signage

Written by: Juliana Choy Sommer
Published: January 10, 2019
Category: Latest News

Priority Architectural Graphics has been asked to fabricate the first 8 markers for California’s African American Freedom Trail which launches in San Francisco in 2019. Activist, Historian and Publisher John William Templeton, creator of the California African American Freedom Trail envisions 6,000 markers statewide, with more than 400 in San Francisco.

The trail will be formally endorsed by the State Historical Resources Commission as a statewide resource at its Jan. 28 meeting in Sacramento. The Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed the trail last June in a resolution by (then) Board President and current Mayor London Breed, past Board President Supervisor Malia Cohen and current Assemblyman David Chiu.

African American Freedom Trail sites in San Francisco

The African American Freedom Trail in San Francisco will include fifty-five locations as identified in a new San Francisco AAFT brochure available on the SFTravel website. “San Francisco’s African American heritage is central to American and global history, particularly the most important event in black history, the approval of the 13th Amendment on Jan. 31, 1865. This new brochure is just one way that visitors and locals can explore and be enriched by this heritage,” Templeton said.

In a ceremony in San Francisco earlier in November 2018, Templeton described the diversity of sites he has planned in the Bay Area including at the waterfront in honor of African American sea captains, at thirteen different San Francisco schools named for prominent African Americans and at the site of the Manor Plaza Hotel where Flip Wilson gave his first comedy performance. San Francisco’s role in the evolution of jazz is detailed, along with significant events involving African American leaders such as Capt. William Alexander Leidesdorff, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Howard Thurman, Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, Langston Hughes, Alex Haley, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou.  

Other San Francisco sites to be marked are: the Monadnock Building on Market Street, where Oscar Hudson, California’s first black lawyer, worked; Sam Jordan’s Bar on Third Street, which Templeton says is California’s oldest black-owned restaurant; the Third Baptist Church on McAllister, which was the site of (and was built with lumber from) a mansion of Captain Charles Goodall; a Ferry Building shoeshine stand where Aurelious Alberger, the first president of the Northern California NAACP, worked.   

Subscribe to Signpost