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Sign My Name to Freedom

Photo credit: A. K. Sandhu

“It’s through the humanities that one learns empathy…”  
-Betty Reid Soskin




April is Black Women’s History Month, an opportunity to embrace the achievements and to build awareness of the contributions of generations of Black Women and minority women of African descent.

Born in Detroit, raised in New Orleans and making California her home for the majority of her life, at the age of 96 Betty Reid Soskin is the oldest US National Park Ranger and an eloquent storyteller about her life and those around her. We recognize Mrs. Soskin’s past achievements and her current successes.

We are proud to include Mrs. Soskin in our We Are the Humanities video series. To celebrate over 40 years of grantmaking, programming and partnerships, we invited a group of prominent Californians to explore what the humanities mean to them. Her words are captured in the video below and live on our website.


Sign My Name to Freedom is the name of Soskin’s recently published memoir chronicling her personal experiences of living through great social change. In this memoir, Soskin shares her nine decades of experience of “living while black.” It chronicles her life as a granddaughter of slaves, as a wife, mother and local business owner, from singer/songwriter to civil rights activist and much more. 

California Humanities also awarded a California Documentary Project Production grant titled Sign My Name to Freedom through the International Documentary Association to project director Bryan Gibel. This documentary will follow Mrs. Soskin as she teams up with the iconic Bay Area jazz composer and performer Marcus Shelby and a young band to perform new arrangements of the songs she wrote and sang in the 60s and 70s.

If we’re ever to obtain world peace or even national peace, it will be through the arts…
-Betty Reid Soskin

You can read more about the release of her book here.

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