Making Ourselves at Home on The Home Front

By Outdoor Afro Leader Zoë Polk

An Outdoor Afro-Guided Tour of African American Women’s History in Richmond


As the last bit of sun disappeared along the horizon of the San Francisco Bay, Outdoor Afros gathered for a final check in of our hike of the Marina Bay Trail in Richmond, California.  Going around the circle, we marveled at the African American history ingrained in the land around us. And we agreed that the beautiful waterfront setting was an honorable tribute to the women we’d learned about on our hike. As a slight warm breeze encircled us, seeming like a final gasp of summer air, one Outdoor Afro summed up the experience with three simple words:  “I feel free.”

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African American women shipyard workers

As the federal government shutdown goes on, Outdoor Afro continues to explore ways to engage with our natural spaces. As we’ve mentioned in our previous post, connecting with nature through local and state parks is one of those ways. Established in 2000, the Rosie the Riveter /World War II Home Front National Historic Park is “partnership park,” wherein the City of Richmond owns the park land and buildings, and the National Park Service administers the programming.  While, due to the shutdown, we did a self-guided tour, Outdoor Afro highly recommends visiting this important space when it is open.  We are sure that you will treasure the lessons to be learned from Outdoor Afros and National Park Service Rangers Raphael Allen and Betty Soskin as much as we do.
When we began the hike, we were excited to find the trail markers which discussed the role of African Americans in shipbuilding, union organizing and civil rights activism during World War II. We learned about Frances Albrier who became the first African American woman to be hired at Shipyard Number 2 in Richmond.
100_2645Working as a welder, Ms. Albrier went on to become the first woman elected to Berkeley City Council and led a campaign hire black teachers in the city’s schools. The youngest Outdoor Afro in our group, Capone, told us that the Frances Albrier Community Center was located in San Pablo Park, one of his favorite parks in the city. We also learned about Charlotta Bass, civil rights activist and founder of The Eagle, one of the longest running African American newspapers in the West.
We spent the longest time at the trail marker that described the work of Anna Bland, Eastine Cowner, and Beatrice Turner. These African American women welders and scalers worked on the SS George Washington Carver (1943).
African American welder Frances Albrier

African American Scaler Eastine Cowner

This trail marker has a memorable photo of African American actress Lena Horne joining Beatrice Turner at the launching of the liberty ship. The SS George Washington Carver was the second ship to be named for an African American. We couldn’t help but notice and comment on the smiles on the women’s faces as they worked, no doubt proud of the work they were doing and proud to be working on ship named for such an important figure (and Outdoor Afro of his time)  in African American history.
Learning about African American history along the trail remains Outdoor Afro’s favorite way to hike. On the Marina Bay Trail, gazing out at the Bay and the beautiful views of Angel Island, Mount Tamalpais and the Golden Gate, we saw familiar sights through the eyes of our trailblazing ancestors.  And we couldn’t help but think that this magnificent natural setting served as an inspiration to them in their daily hard work just as they serve as an inspiration to us.  While we saw their smiling faces beautifully captured in the trail markers, we also looked out and saw them permanently embedded in the natural landscape. And we felt their spirits around us, like a warm summer breeze.

Join us on our next outdoor adventure!