The 1960s would be the most turbulent decade yet for postwar African American San Franciscans. It would be a time of dramatic change, one in which the city experienced the uncompromising demand for equal rights and self-determination by a group who had both grown in size and organization. In 1950 the total population of the city was 775,357 of which 5.6% was African American (Taylor; 1998, 254). By 1960 the total population of San Francisco had declined marginally to 740,316 but the African American population increased by nearly 31,000 to 74,383, a robust 10% of the total population (Taylor; 1998, 286). At the same time, the phenomenon of “white fl ight” took hold and, as one newspaper reported, “Between 1950 and 1960, 90,000 whites vacated San Francisco for the commute communities,” small suburban cities that were almost all white (News-Call Bulletin; 1961, The Negro in San Francisco No. 1). Although there were both positive and negative developments for African American San Franciscans during the decade, one report published in the late 1960s made the sobering, if overly pessimistic assessment that

The years 1940 to 1960 were the key ones in the history of the Negro in San Francisco. They marked the disintegration of a small, stable, relatively well employed and housed minority into a large group of frustrated, bitter people. People whose homes are crumbling, whose jobs are the fi rst to be eliminated by a cost-conscious employer (if they indeed have jobs) and whose children will see no better [sic]. (San Francisco, A City in Crisis, 1968)

In 1960 more than one third of San Francisco’s African Americans lived in the Western Addition and made up 46% of the neighborhood’s population. However, living conditions were diffi cult for many of the area’s residents. As one report noted, “In 1960 the 62,269 residents of 14 census tracts in the Western Addition generally had more unemployment, lower family incomes and fewer years of school than did all of San Francisco’s population in that year” (A Profi le of the Western Addition, 1960; 1). More specifi cally, the report indicated that 12% of the Western Addition’s men

and 10% of the women in the labor force were unemployed compared with 7% and 5% city wide respectively. Furthermore, most of the neighborhood’s population over 25 years old had not fi nished high school. However, in spite of diffi cult life circumstances, the larger African American population meant increased political representation and a greater ability to advocate for equality. Enabled by the community’s growing population as much as its desire for racial equality, African American San Franciscans often moved beyond the tactics of debate and compromise characteristic of the previous decade to direct action and confrontation.