African American Excursion
On any given day, there is much to celebrate about African American culture in San Francisco, and if you time your visit, you might have the added experience of enjoying special activities during Black History Month, the annual Juneteenth celebration, the highly regarded AfroSolo theater festival and any number of Afrocentric events.
San Francisco is filled with places to ponder and reflect on its very own rich African American ancestry, which can be found in the unlikeliest places - if only you know where to look. The following one-day itinerary offers a glimpse into the City's black culture.
When the wake up call comes this morning, enjoy your morning stroll around Yerba Buena Gardens, located between Third and Fourth and Mission and Howard streets. If you are in the financial district, pass by Leidesdorff Street which runs parallel between Montgomery and Sansome, from Pine to Washington. This short street is named after one of the City's pioneers, William Alexander Leidesdorff. An African American originally from the Virgin Islands, Leidesdorff sailed into San Francisco in 1841 and became a prominent businessmen and vital politico, building the City's first hotel.
You'll know you have reached your destination when the sounds of falling water lure you into a manicured garden, toward the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Enjoy warm croissants or bagels you picked up at one of the local bakeries along the way as the 22-foot-high waterfall cascades past the floating bridge and 12 engraved glass panes with quotes by Dr. King. Exit the park at Third and Mission where you will see the home of the Museum of the African Diaspora which features exhibits of local and international black history. MoAD opened on the ground level of the St. Regis Hotel, in December 2005. As you walk south down Third Street toward AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants, pause to look up at a large painting by noted artist Raymond Saunders on the St. Regis tower.
Even if the Giants are on the road or in the off-season, baseball fans can take a behind-the-scenes-tour of the waterfront park. Even non-sports fans will appreciate the entrance: Willie Mays Plaza is home to 24 (his jersey number) palm trees and a nine-foot bronze sculpture of the African American Hall of Fame center fielder. Stroll along McCovey Cove into China Basin park and view the larger-than-life statue of another living legend: Willie McCovey. If you have time, take in a game. You might just see Tim Lincecum pitch a no-hitter.
At this point, you’re not far from a connection to the T-Third line which provides light rail service to the growing communities along Third Street which include Mission Bay as well as Dogpatch, one of San Francisco’s 11 historic districts, Bayview, Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley. Located at 4705 Third St., the Bayview Opera House, built in 1888, was the first opera house built for San Francisco and the only theater to survive the 1906 earthquake and fire. Today it is a neighborhood cultural center.
If your culture day happens to fall on Sunday, be sure to spend time in one of the City's celebrated churches. Glide Memorial United Methodist Church is praised nationally for its progressive community projects, and visitors will find a truly multi-cultural choir that "shakes the walls and raises the spirit." The Saint John Coltrane African American Church emphasizes music as a medium to worship, while the Third Baptist Church, founded during the Gold Rush, was the first Black Baptist church west of the Rockies.
If you catch a cab or drive, a brief stop at the corner of Bush and Octavia is in order. A tribute to Mary Ellen Pleasant - a former slave who became a successful local businesswoman and a crucial chain in the Underground Railroad - lies on the southwest corner, at the site of her former home. This is also close to one of the city’s other historic districts: Bush Street Cottage Row. Be sure not to miss the African American Art and Culture Complex (AAACC) at Fulton and Webster, with its celebrated Dewey Crumpler mural. AAACC is also home to the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society Museum, which is packed with African and African American artwork, artifacts and exhibitions, including that of Pleasant and Leidesdorff.
A trip out to Fort Point National Historic Site at the south anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge is well worth the trek. Not only is the scene of the San Francisco Bay breathtaking from this vantage point but this is also the site of a permanent exhibit of the African American soldier's experience from 1776 through present-day. Now it's time to get back to the hotel and get ready for a night on the town. Tonight will be spent meandering one of our great neighborhoods: the Fillmore. You won't be at a loss for dining or music options in the Fillmore Jazz Preservation District. The area boasts several venues including the second Bay Area location of famed jazz club Yoshi’s and 1300 on Fillmore where chef David Lawrence combines classic French cooking with southern style touches. Diners on select Sundays can also enjoy the gospel brunch.
San Francisco’s majestic City Hall is located at One Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, named for the late civil rights leader and one of the founders of The Sun-Reporter, is opposite the Main Library, 100 Larkin St., which houses The African American Center. Located on the third floor it includes an extensive collection exploring the African American experience and is a vital link in the African American History Network, an online connection between the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society.
Your nightcap will be at the Top of the Mark, on the 19th floor of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco with an unrivaled view of the City. But that's not the only breathtaking sight here. Ask to see the Room of the Dons and take a look at the 1926 mural of Queen Califia, the mythical black queen from whom the state of California takes its name. Sleep soundly tonight; it's been a long, learned day.
To find out more about San Francisco's African American heritage, please view our press release titled "Diverse San Francisco: African American"