TRANSITIONS

David Johnson
Aug 3, 1926 – Mar 1, 2024
Noted photographer depicted African American life in San Francisco, first Black Student of Ansel Adams, life-time Society member serving as President and Board member, truly a friend to the Society. He will be remembered.

“O. J.” Simpson
Jul 9, 1947 – Apr 10, 2024
Raised in San Francisco, high school, college and NFL football star, successful acting career, appearing in “Roots” and AVIS ads, made TV news when police trailed his White Ford Bronco, received a not-guilty verdict in a double murder trial, then served time for armed robbery before being released due to illness.

Faith Ringgold
Oct 8, 1930 – Apr 12, 2024
Nationally known artist, illustrator, painter, graphic designer, quilter, sculptor, she wove her community and her sense of justice into all of work.

Cecil Williams
Sep 22, 1929 – Apr 22, 2024
“Legendary” pastor of Glide Methodist Church, and co-founder of the Foundation, serving Tenderloin residents, human rights leader, advocate for LGBTQI community.

Society's newsletter available Online


Praisesinger Spring 2024

You may download the newsletter from the PDF reader

THE SOCIETY IS MOVING, AGAIN!
Since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and fire, the City has completed seismic retrofitting of many city properties. After the delay caused by COVID, retrofit of 762 Fulton St., a city-owned building, is to commence in 2025. AAACC set a deadline of October 1 for resident organizations to move out of the building. AAACC will relocate as well.

Drew Howard, new Society member, is heading a plan to get the Society out of the building into a temporary location. This will take a high degree of discipline, people power and cooperation among and between the Board and Society members. To learn more about the relocation plan, contact the Society via email. If you have access to spaces available for rent, store items or if you can donate funds to assist in the transition, please contact the Board of Directors either directly or email to Info@sfaahcs.org

Who We Are

The San Francisco African American Historical & Cultural Society is open to people of all ages, races and ethnicities. Our mission is to educate African Americans and others about the history and culture of San Francisco's African American community. To do this, a variety of programs, events and exhibits are presented. The Society maintains an archive of historic and cultural items and a research library. Black History Month observances, including “kick-off” and theme-based programs are our keystone activity. More at Mission and Collections.

Join Us

1847 Wedding dress
1847 dyed silk wedding dress,
donated by Drew Howard,
worn by daughter

Contact Us

We are located at AAACC, 762 Fulton Street, 2nd fl., San Francisco California, 94102

AAACC Information

The Society library and gallery are now open on a limited basis. Best call before visiting. 415-292-6172 or email Info@sfaahcs.org


Black Lives Matter Stop AAPI Hate and Violence!



Threads That Tie . . . Threads That Bind . . . Threads That Weave, (Part 1) by Drew Howard

excerpted from an article in the Dartmouth Alumni newsletter

When I was growing up there were numerous items in our house, ranging from silverware and quilts to photos and paintings. What … gave rise to my imagination most was a shell display case my mother’s grandfather had made with shells from the Falkland Islands. He had been shipwrecked on his way to the goldrush and eventually returned to Columbus, OH, with shells and no gold.

…it was not until I was married … that my mom revealed the most valuable heritage - the “Free Papers” of her grandaunt Martha. A simple piece of paper folded twice to be size of a bookmark with the words “Martha Miller Free Papers” written in blue ink. This allowed her to travel out of Virginia and into Ohio in 1845, when another two dozen of other folks she grew up with were left behind. The significance of this paper has grown with me over time, and I feel a reverence, but I knew very little beyond what was written.

…Our family heritage also included the wedding dress of this same Martha Miller. It had been hanging in a garment bag from the ceiling in the utility room for decades. At one time my mom showed it to me and explained that it had originally been white, but her grandaunt dyed it so she could wear it on other occasions. My mom (Dr. Ruth Howard) was interviewed in 1989 by The San Francisco Chronicle on the 144th anniversary of the Free Papers and mentions the dress, but I was still left with lingering questions about my great-grand aunt.

After my mom died in 2003, we donated it [the dress] to the Society…. there was no one else living to answer questions, but that was also at a time when genealogy was growing in popularity and … sources were … more abundant.

Martha Miller was the sister of Sarah Jane Miller Lee, my mother’s grandmother. …. I began to look for the threads which connect these two sisters with Free Papers, a letter, and a dress. … Using genealogy websites provides access to censuses, birth and death records; but sometimes it is a side move that opens even more. Having the name Samuel Miller in front of me from the Free Papers, and having received a copy of the entry of the deed in the Campbell County court record, I decided to search that name in Campbell County. I stared at the computer screen as I had one of the revealing moments seen often on “Finding your Roots.” The man who had emancipated Martha… was one of the wealthiest men in ante-bellum Virginia and maybe the south… Seeing name and picture is out of the normal, and left me with my mouth ajar. “Two hundred years after his birth, Samuel Miller remained as much an enigma as he was during his lifetime.” “He was a very private citizen who kept a low profile and set a rigid agenda, from which he did not deviate. Concerned that his plans would not be fulfilled if he did not prescribe all details for the disposition of his estate, he did not entrust anyone to pursue his goals with the same intensity of purpose.”

The library of the State of Virginia has a database of some 1851 Deeds of Emancipation and Manumission between 1751 and 1850. These are the ones recorded in county courthouses. After 1782 …the acts were recorded in deeds. The deed of manumission has been described as being used to immediately set someone free and … written into the will to be executed upon the death of the owner. This database had three deed entries for Samuel Miller, including Martha in 1845, and upon looking at the microfiche, I saw that one of the witnesses on Martha’s deed, and on an earlier one in 1839, was Edward Butler. That name rang a bell. …It turns out that this Butler was another tobacco trader and, based on 1870 and 1880 censuses, married a woman about Sarah’s age and 18 years his junior. …

… Numerous accounts spoke of [Miller’s] Last Will and Testament, but I was stymied in finding a copy online until I found the 1892 annual report of the Miller Fund in the University of Minnesota library. I saw that the first clause of the handwritten will was about Sarah. A house and lot in Columbus, OH, was to be held in trust for “Sarah, formerly my slave, but heretofore emancipated by me, and her children, should she have any, so long as she, the said Sarah, lives.” The first person her refers to in his will is Sarah. Further evidence of Sarah’s importance in his life is the fact that he had travelled to Columbus three months prior to writing the will in April 1859 to buy this property that he was then putting in trust to Sarah. … Later in the will he emancipates Willie Ann “in consideration of her faithful services as a nurse to me in my ill health.” He also states “it is my will that my Executors shall cause her to be removed [to Ohio] at the expense of my estate.” This was necessary because Virginia required that emancipated people had to leave the state. This also led to some people petitioning the state legislature to be re-enslaved in order to reunite with the rest of their family still enslaved. These manuscripts are also on the University of Virginia’s website.

Indeed, in the subsequent clause to emancipating Willie Ann, he emancipates “all the rest of my slaves and direct that my Executors shall cause them to be removed, at the expense of my estate, from the State of Virginia, or from such other State as they may reside, into Liberia, in Africa, or some other non-slaveholding State.” Needless to say, this clause of the will was never enacted since Miller survived the Civil War.

End part I, Read the whole article