SUNNYVALE -- For more than a century after the capture of John Brown at Harper's Ferry, the family of the Marine major who led the assault kept an 1853 Sharps rifle and a nine-foot lance taken from one of Brown's compatriots.
SAN FRANCISCO -- In 2012, the most important thing African-Americans can do is what they did in New York in 1808 and in San Francisco in 1852 -- go to church.
During the 160th anniversary of Third Baptist Church, Dr. Calvin O. Butts Jr., pastor of the 204-year-old Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem said, "There's no other place that a black man or women should be on Sunday morning than in church. The black man or woman owes everything to the church."
SAN FRANCISCO -- The first sermon of Bethel A.M.E. was preached from jail, related long-time member Gilbert Sams, a retired transportation planner. The minister was detained because he was suspected of being a fugitive slave, so the members came down to jail to hear him.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The hand went up as if this was such an easy question that it didn't need to be asked. My question was "What do you know about slavery?"
The reply came back, "People got taken from Africa" -- voice began to trail off and head bowed -- "and they went into slavery."
I was the guest of the San Francisco Achievers program at Raoul Wallenberg High School--two dozen young men in the 12th grade preparing for college with assured scholarships from the foundation.
Then I asked, "What do you know about slavery in the Bible?"
Almost everyone raised their hand and shouted in unison, "Moses took the Hebrews out of slavery across the Red Sea."
The contrast was unavoidable. "Did you hear the difference," I replied. "When you talked about black people being in slavery, they never got out. When you mentioned the Hebrews, you started with their freedom."
It's pretty rare for a group of teens to become silent, but they were speechless.
Choreographer Joanna Haigood's Zaccho Dance Theatre enacts Sailing Away, a powerful dance performed on San Francisco's Market Street between Powell and Battery Streets, through Sunday, Sept. 16 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is an enactment of the Exodus of 1858, led by Mifflin W. Gibbs and Peter Lester, when African-Americans moved to Victoria, British Columbia. Travis Rowland is Peter Lester; Antoine Hunter is Mifflin Gibbs, Robert Henry Johnson is Grafton T. Brown; Raissa Simpson is Sara Lester, Matthew Wickett is Archy Lee, Byb Bibene is George Washington Dennis and Amara Tabor-Smith is Mary Ellen Pleasant as they portray eight Underground Railroad operatives who lived along Market Street during the 1850s.
SAN FRANCISCO -- When Bronnie Hazlewood first met Bernard Kinsey, he decided to move across the country to work for Kinsey.
"He was branch manager for Xerox in the Bay Area, and he had a staff that was majority people of color and women and they were the top branch in the country," recalled Hazlewood. "He convinced us that we were destined to excel."
Hazlewood concludes, "He was a game changer then, and is still a game changer."
As San Francisco marks the 161st anniversary of the America's Cup, an much more important anniversary is taking place at the same time. The 160th anniversary of First A.M.E. Zion Church, the same week as the preliminary races, has gotten far less attention.
It is one of five African-American organizations founded in 1852 with strong ties to the National Underground Railroad. The first celebration of First A.M.E. Zion's 160th anniversary welcomes fellow churches in the California Conference of A.M.E. Zion Churches at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19 in the church at 2159 Golden Gate Ave. (at Masonic). The following Sunday, it is joined by Third Baptist Church and Bethel A.M.E., also founded in 1852, also at 3 p.m.
We traditionally begin National Black Business Month with a walking tour to sites associated with 1840s millionaire entrepreneur William Alexander Leidesdorff and the first African-American bank, created in 1857 at California and Montgomery in San Francisco. Alameda appraiser Al Watts gathered more than 25 hikers from All Seasons Ski Club who joined us Saturday for the three-hour tour, followed by a delicious brunch at Farmer Brown, the Food and Wine Top 10 restaurant devoted to the heritage of black agriculture founded by 50 Top Names in Black Food selectee Jay Foster.
SAN FRANCISCO -- One of the paths to the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago Sept. 22, runs from the main intersection of the Financial District -- Montgomery and California Streets.