American Labor in the Era of World War II

By Sally M. Miller; Daniel A. Cornford | Go to book overview

7
"Her Husband Didn't Have a Word to Say": Black Women and Blues Clubs in Richmond, California, during World War II

Shirley Ann Moore

Before World War II, Richmond, California, was merely a dot on the California map. Located on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, Richmond's population numbered only 23,000 in 1940. Its mild climate, deep harbor, and vast tracts of unused land led Richmond city founders to pursue a dream of becoming the industrial center of the Pacific coast, the "Pittsburgh of the West." Moreover, Richmond developers' offers of tax incentives and assurances of a plentiful, docile labor force made the city even more attractive to prospective industries. Within a decade of its incorporation in 1905, Richmond had wooed and won major industries like Standard Oil, the Santa Fe Railroad, the Pullman Coach Company, and the American Standard porcelain factory. However, although early city boosters looked forward to a burgeoning industrial base, many were ambivalent about the consequences of full-scale industrialization and urbanization. Expecting that change in the city could be held to a "slow, gradual and comforting process," civic and political leaders were determined that city neighborhoods would remain "familiar" and "tidy." 1

Richmond's leaders expected that political and economic power would remain in the hands of a small group of native-born whites who had dominated the city's political and economic life since the city's founding. Although wealthy Richmond boosters like founder A. S.

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