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Artists: Keely Shaller & Noelia Marin Ramos


Writer: Zach Franklin

Completed in 2018
Link to full Interview audio

Mildred Howard’s parents Mable and Rolly Howard moved to San Francisco from Galveston, Texas in 1941, as part of the second “Great Migration” of African Americans moving from the South in search of opportunity. Raleigh was a longshoreman who worked at the port in Galveston, and Mable was an antiques dealer. During World War II, the docks in Galveston were closed, so they moved to the Bay Area to work at the shipyards in Hunters Point and Richmond.


In 1947, after the war was over, they bought a house at 3219 Ellis Street. South Berkeley was one of the few places where their family could purchase a home at that time, because of government housing policies at the time that discriminated against African Americans. Anyone was allowed to buy a home in South Berkeley, which meant that the neighborhood was very diverse. Many other African Americans bought homes in the neighborhood, and several other members of Mildred’s family moved in nearby as well.


Mildred attended Malcolm X in the 1950s, back when it was called Lincoln Elementary. At that time there were still houses on King Street that went all the way to Ashby Avenue - Mildred’s friend Marjorie lived in one of them. Soon after Mildred left, the school was expanded, and those houses were demolished. Mildred and her siblings were the first of three generations to attend Malcolm X - her grandchildren graduated from the school in the 1990s. 


Mable Howard became an important community leader, and she played a leading role in the fight to make sure that BART was built underground in Berkeley. Mildred become an famous artist, creating sculptures, paintings, and large-scale public art installations. Her work has been shown all around the world.


After 2000, the cost of housing in South Berkeley increased dramatically, forcing many of the African American families who lived here to migrate elsewhere in search of affordable housing. This included Mildred, who in 2017 was forced her to move out of the studio where she had lived and worked for 18 years. Luckily, Mildred was able to find a studio she could afford in West Oakland through a Berkeley High connection, but most of the families she grew up with in South Berkeley have been forced to leave the region altogether.

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