Dec 13, 1943 - Dec 29, 2023
Dancer and entertainer, first known with the late Gregory Hines, as world class tap dancers. Hines’ solo career included stage plays, musicals and choreography.

Jul 7, 1928 – Dec 27, 2023
Life-long artist, who depicted African American life in vivid colors and settings, dancer, singer, member of Jones Memorial and beloved mother, grandmother, teacher and friend. The Society dedicates 2024 Black History Month to Robinson.

Mar 16, 1960 – Dec 8, 2023
Served San Francisco and the African American community in a variety of roles in community, government and politics. Society member and “an irreplaceable link in the African American and City and County of San Francisco.”

Dec 18, 1927 - Nov 20, 2023
Burks was a SFUSD teacher, and belonged to various sororities and civic organizations, including the Society. She and her husband were pioneers in equal access to housing.

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Praisesinger Winter 2024

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BHM 2024

We hope you joined us at City Hall on February 2 at noon for the Kick off. Tune in to see a recording. Don't miss Ralph Remington's apropro remarks on African Americans and Arts. See our events page for other programs. And check back here for updates!

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.

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Crowley no. 17
Crowley No. 17, transbay ferry docked, African American passengers and man on dock, from the Anderson Family Collection Scrapbook #6, before the Bay Bridge was built.” Photographer likely Orval Anderson, dated between 1917 and 1939.

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

Black Lives Matter Stop AAPI Hate and Violence!

Blacks in the West Part 3 of 3

Philip Alexander Bell and the San Francisco Elevator, part 3 of 3 by John H. Telfer, excerpted from “Blacks in the West” Monograph No. 1, 1976

..Support came from some white newspapers, including a satirical piece in the Vallejo Recorder which Bell thought worth re-printing in the Elevator: “The Negroes in California are native born Americans, as their fathers were before them for many generations. They are as intelligent, honest, industrious, economical, and law abiding as the average of American citizens. But some of them are black. The purity of the ballot box must not be tarnished by a ballot dropped in by a hand that is not pure white. White is the saintly color, and the white men are all saints, and the ballot box is a sanctified institution... Negros are liable to be saucy, and must be made to feel that they are our inferiors, there are two or three thousand Negroes in California, and if too many of them are granted the right of suffrage they may vote down the whites. They are sharp, and although they approach the legislature very modestly, they must be closely watched. If they want to get the bulge on us, the 100,000 white voters of California are gone up. Just see what the Israelites due to the Egyptians, all because Moses and Aaron and a few more of those free fellows were allowed to be citizens and to hold office under the Egyptian monarch.”

In this case, the Republican Negroes did not get concessions from the Democratic Legislature, and had to wait until 1870s to vote.

Bell was a warm and sociable man, sometimes displaying a keen humor. On occasion he loved dancing and wines. He was active in the social life of the city. In 1864 he was listed among a group of 12 men who served as a committee in charge of a picnic at Hayes Park. In 1868 a Grand Carnival Ball, a masquerade and fancy dress affair, was to be at the Turn Verein Hall, with P. A. Bell serving on the arrangements committee of five men.

...However, Bell's public appearances did not always meet with such criticism. When he first came to San Francisco he appeared at a literary festival and received acclaim for his dramatic reading. The following month he gave a series of four programs of readings at the old St. Cyprian Church building. The review of this appearance said, "Notwithstanding an unfortunate impediment in his speech, it is evident his study of elocution has been thorough." In 1862 Bell appeared in lecture entitled "Hebrew Slavery in Contrast with American Slavery.”

...But hard going overtook the Elevator in the early '70s and Bell sold out his interest to Alexander Ferguson who also became editor. "I cheerfully retired from the cares and responsibilities of editorial life," was his final message to the readers on July 20, 1872. The election campaign was starting, and Ferguson transformed the Elevator into a political organ, giving all out support for Ulysses S. Grant's bid for reelection.38

A letter from Bishop Thomas M. D. Ward in New Orleans came to Bell which hinted at the evident state of mind of the weary editor which led to his resignation. Bell took the paper back from Ferguson after the November election, and soon published Bishop Ward's earlier letter which may have done much to revive Bells courage:

“I have heard that you have withdrawn from the Elevator. I know the hardships, the suffering and the mental anguish you pass through; but good friend, could you have heard that I have heard regarding the high character of the paper, your wounded heart would rejoice and be glad. Generations yet unborn will lisp your praise; yea! The present age is placing your name among the very ablest American journalists."

Such reassurance must have prevailed, for Bell took up his burden again. In resuming proprietorship Bell paid warm compliments to Captain Alexander Ferguson's accomplishments in his brief period of four months, saying that the paper now had a "larger number of permanent subscribers than any paper ever published by colored man in California."

An example of Bell's steady belief in equality and integration with his objection to a coroner's jury of 12 Negros for decision in a Negro murder in 1874. In an editorial he said, “We desire to be treated as citizens, irrespective of color. Holding these sentiments, we regret to learn that Coroner Rice selected twelve colored men to sit as a jury in the case of Lewis Berry who was murdered by his son...If we are called upon to perform the duties of citizenship, make no discrimination. If it is thought advisable to select colored men in any case, let an equal portion be white men. We do not wish to be colonized.”

A flash of the old warrior's fire comes through in what is apparently his final editorial, September 11, 1886:

“The Republican Party claims that the colored voters should vote for the nominees of the Republican Party on any and all occasions... The colored voter is looked upon, and one sense, as being the property of the Republican Party, and has no right to think or exercise his own political judgment, relative to men and measures... There was a time in the memory of man before his political instincts were cultivated, that the Republican Party could say to the black voters, that you take the buzzard and I will take the turkey, and he was unable to discern the difference and went away satisfied. But as time passed and the political scales continue to fall from the black voters' eyes, he commits to see the trick... and demands a portion of the turkey... which the Republican Party of California refuses him the smallest morsel.”

With 11,000 colored voters in California, Bell said such treatment would never keep the Negro vote in line.

...He was supported after 1885 by a society of ladies in San Francisco and Sacramento, and was only moved from his room to the almshouse to secure better care for him a few days before the end in April, 1889.

What we see in the enthusiasms, the indignations, the persistent struggles of this brave editor are reflections of the stated American creed of the dignity of the individual, of the basic quality of all men, and certain inalienable rights to justice. Bell felt these values deeply. Without an apology or hesitation he demanded that his people be allowed to share them. To this crusade he gave his whole life.

(Mr. Telfer has served as a minister in the Congregational Church, Education Director, packinghouse workers in the south, and is presently instructor in ...)

Read the article, in its entirety. To see the bibliography, please refer to the original printed copy available at the Society, 762 Fulton St. 2nd fl., San Francisco, CA 94102.