Esther Mabry

Esther Mabry

Esther Mabry, also known as “Mama Nip”, is regarded throughout West Oakland as one of the few successful female entrepreneurs on 7th Street.

Esther came to West Oakland from Texas in 1942. Two years later she was working as a cook and waitress at Slim Jenkins’ Place. Though she had a good relationship with her boss, Slim Jenkins, Esther always wanted to go into business for herself. Jenkins encouraged her to go for it. In 1950, when Mabry had saved enough money to open her own place, Esther’s Breakfast Club opened right across the street from Slim’s. Continue reading “Esther Mabry”

Harold “Slim” Jenkins

Harold Harold “Slim” Jenkins owned the most high-profile club on Seventh Street, and his role as a community leader earned him the title of “unofficial mayor of West Oakland.”

Jenkins was a commanding presence.  He was 6’5” and always dressed in a three-piece suit, swishing an unlit cigar from one side of his mouth to the other.  His closely-cropped silver hair was never out of place.

Jenkins was born in rural Monroe, Louisana, in 1891.  As a young man, he joined the military.  As soon as World War I ended, Jenkins moved to Oakland and started waiting tables and saving money, with the dream of one day opening his own club.  He finally made that dream come true in 1933, when he opened Slim Jenkins’ Club at 1748 Seventh Street. Continue reading “Harold “Slim” Jenkins”

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Moves In

In the 1960s, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, also known as BART, was instrumental in the decline of West Oakland’s struggling 7th Street neighborhood.

Early that decade, BART proposed building a track down the center of 7th Street to service shoppers and commuters traveling to downtown San Francisco. Many in the neighborhood believed that BART’s District Board was heavily weighted in favor of San Francisco’s business interests. Some speculated that Oakland was simply a thoroughfare for people from wealthier parts of the Bay Area who shopped or worked in San Francisco, with poor minority neighbors bearing the brunt of the impact promised by a significant BART undertaking.
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Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP)

CL Dellums in his office

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) was an African American labor union organized in 1925 by A. Philip Randolph, who became its first president and C. L. Dellums, who became the Brotherhood’s first vice president. The largest number of Pullman Porters were in Chicago. C.L. Dellums oversaw the West Coast office of the Brotherhood.

In the early 1900s, The Pullman Palace Car Company operated the majority of the country’s passenger trains. The company became one of the largest employers of African Americans in the 1920s and ’30s. It projected a positive image by helping to fund black churches and businesses. But the reality of working for the Pullman Company was different than the public image the company tried to project.

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Bob Geddins

Bob Geddins in about 1959Bob Geddins recorded most of the musicians of 7th Street, including Saunders King, Lowell Fulson and Sugar Pie DeSanto. He helped countless musicians get their start and wrote blues songs that topped the charts in the ‘50s and ‘60s. However, because Geddins didn’t copyright his work, he “got cheated out of all kinds of money,” as he said in a 1977 interview.

Geddins came to California from Texas in 1933. He lived in Los Angeles until 1943, when he and his large family (he had 13 children) joined his mother in West Oakland. Like so many Southern transplants, he found work in the Kaiser shipyards. Continue reading “Bob Geddins”