West Oakland, Before they Gentrify

West Oakland

Northern California’s most popular city located in the Bay Area and often referred as “The Town”, Oakland is rich in black history as the urban community of the Town created the likes of the Black Panthers, the country’s first all-black labor unions with the Pullman Porters, and many iconic black figures.

West Oakland, the historical black community of the Bay Area shows the growth of the black population as the African Americans went from only residing in small sections of West Oakland to becoming the predominant racial group in the city, at least before gentrification began to take over.


West Oakland Black History

With the help of the railroads providing employment opportunities as black workers would work on trains as Pullman Porters, mainly servants assisting the passengers whenever needed, the community of West Oakland would be created.

With the city of Oakland being one of the last and first stops for the trains, many blacks decided to create their home in the Bay Area city with West Oakland becoming the main community for the Oakland black population.

North of Grand Avenue in the two communities of Clawson, also known as Dog Town, and Hoover-Foster, also known as Ghost Town, were the first areas that African Americans occupied before the 1940s.

west oakland

Today’s Hoover-Foster neighborhood, also known as Ghost Town.

With the United States entering World War II, the black population of Oakland grew as southerners relocated for wartime employment, either working in a factory or serving in the military.

Section of West Oakland were somewhat integrated with multiple racial groups, but with an increase of southerners relocating into the city tensions began to rise between the different demographics, which led to the city to segregate the housing complexes of West Oakland into being mainly for African Americans, while all-white housing was constructed in East Oakland.

Today’s Acorn housing complex, one of the last housing complexes of West Oakland to be built.

Another reason for the West Oakland, and the town of Oakland, black population to increase was the displacement of African Americans from other East Bay communities in cities like Richmond as the wartime housing complexes were being demolished following the ending of World War II, forcing the relocation.

With the increase of West Oakland’s urban population, the community became very congested and compacted with African Americans, at least before the ending of segregation and white flight from East Oakland allowing black families to relocate into the East Side of Oakland.

Eventually, 7th Street of West Oakland became the mecca for the East Bay’s black population with resemblance to a Harlem or San Francisco’s Fillmore District as the area was filled with black owned businesses and local entertainment.


West Oakland from 1970s to Present Day

Despite being small, West Oakland was a well reputable area in California with ‘hoods like the Acorn Projects, the Lower Bottoms, Cypress Village, Dog Town, Ghost Town and others.

While East Oakland was widely more known during the days of the Town’s crack era, street activity of West Oakland from the drugs to the pimps and prostitutes has been going around long before the white flight from the East Side.

Well into the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s the West Side of Oakland was much segregated, but not between racial groups and demographics, between different ‘hoods and sections with many have conflicts with one another.

Bloods and Crips never entered the streets of Oakland, so the city never had a true gang problem, but local authorities would consider each neighborhood that had a few residents indulging into the street life as a gang.

The Lower Bottoms neighborhood.

West Oakland was at a point where every block was affiliated with a separate ‘hood from the next one, from the likes of housing complexes like 2-4 Village around 24th and Linden and Kane City (Acorn Projects) to small blocks like Milton Street.

Street activity in West Oakland calmed down as gentrification was entering the area, which began during the late 1990s and the early 2000s with the community being one of the Bay Area’s most sought after neighborhoods.

With the rise in rent and property values, the urban population of West Oakland has been decreasing as many are being forced to relocate with the fear that there will be no original West Oakland residents left in the neighborhoods.

An example of West Oakland’s redevelopment in the background.

Before gentrification, the community did experience something similar with urban renewal and the construction of the Interstate 80 highways, I-980, I-880, and I-580 and the construction of the Acorn projects during the 1960s, which removed some residential areas and single family homes from the West Oakland community.

Many fought to stop urban renewal during 1960s that would later displace hundreds of residents by razing and demolishing key parts of the black community, as previously stated.

Into present day, will West Oakland still be West Oakland in five or ten years as the future seems to state that the total culture of the Town’s West Side will be totally changed from previous generations.


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*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

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