NEIGHBORHOOD ACTIVISM

Story of Louise and Frank Brown
Artist: Bonnie Borucki
Writer: Bonnie Borucki
Original completed 2007
Restored in 2018
Link to full interview text
Link to original interview audio
Louise&Frank_Brown_2019.jpg

Frank and Louise Brown started their careers in the East Bay when they moved from Chicago to Berkeley in 1950. Frank already had a distinguished career

in electronics and aviation. In Florida, he wrote the Technical Flight Training Manual for the 49th Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen (the first black military pilot group, who fought with great distinction in WWII). In California, his first teaching job was at Stockton College (now University of the Pacific) where he was the first African American tenured professor.

 

Louise was one of the first African-American teachers hired in the Berkeley Unified School District and was the first African-American teacher at Malcolm X Elementary School (when it was still Lincoln Elementary School). Her teaching specialty was science and she established a Sierra Club Chapter at the school that helped link minority school children with nature and the environment.

In addition to teaching, Frank and Louise were leading forces in community activism. Frank was the President of the Berkeley Branch of the NAACP for over thirty years.

Frank and Louise helped found the South Berkeley Development Corporation that helped the City of Berkeley to buy a US Navy housing facility in South Berkeley and turn it into the Savo Island Facility for low-income housing, that is still present today. Frank and Louise founded the Newbury Neighborhood Association. The Association was responsible for helping to convert the Southern Pacific Railroad junkyard (at Russell and Adeline Street) to a Safeway store and then later to the Berkeley Bowl Marketplace, that is still present.

Frank and Louise were key activists in a grassroots intervention with the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) that was successful in moving the BART train underground for the entire City of Berkeley. Originally, BART had planned to build overhead tracks at the Ashby Station and along the Adeline Corridor, in the middle of a residential area. Frank co-chaired a committee with Berkeley Mayor Wallace Johnson that forced BART to move its tracks underground.