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Harlem of the West Exhibit
July 21, 2017 @ 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
An event every day that begins at 12:00 pm, repeating until August 19, 2017
THE HARLEM OF THE WEST SF PROJECT is a book, website and photographic exhibit. This three story photographic exhibit is now on view at the African American Arts & Culture Complex in San Francisco at 762 Fulton St, SF until August 19th, 2017, when there will be a closing reception with Author talk and book signing. This project conducted by Elizabeth Pepin Silva and Lewis Watts that celebrates the bustling Fillmore jazz era of the 1940s and 1950s, a period when the Fillmore was a vibrant neighborhood of more than two dozen nightclubs and music venues within its one square mile—all of which virtually vanished due to redevelopment in the 1960s. The project celebrates a unique and rediscovered chapter in jazz history and the African American experience on the West Coast.
Billie Holiday singing at the Champagne Supper Club. Dexter Gordon hanging out at Bop City. Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane all dropping in for jam sessions. A nostalgic snapshot from the New York or Chicago jazz scenes? Nope. Was San Francisco’s Fillmore District in its heyday.
The Fillmore in the 1940s and 1950s was a swinging, integrated, and hopping neighborhood dotted with restaurants, pool halls, theaters, and shops — many minority-owned and boasting more than two dozen active nightclubs and music joints within its one square mile.
Although it has been commemorated in songs, poems, and in Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” few people today know of the rich history of the Fillmore and its musical legacy because it vanished abruptly and so thoroughly due to redevelopment in the 1960s. Through dozens of archival photographs and oral accounts from the neighborhood residents and musicians who experienced it at its height, the Harlem of the West SF Project celebrates this unique and rediscovered chapter in jazz history and the African-American experience on the West Coast. The Project is a platform for the Fillmore’s musicians, nightclub owners and residents of the 1940s and 1950s to tell the neighborhood’s history in their own words, as well as feature rarely seen photographs and memorabilia. We encourage community members to contact us and contribute to the site, keeping it alive, relevant, and growing. Please email us if you have a story to tell, photographs to share, or can identify anyone in the photographs.