Exploring the architecture of iconic African-American literature and music

When James Baldwin, author of The Fire Next Time, met the emerging revolutionary figure, Huey Newton, for lunch, they came to Haight Street to dine at Connie’s. Alex Haley’s first article for the Saturday Evening Post was about Emile’s near where Amiri Baraka joined the Beat Generation. Ernest Gaines drew inspiration for his novels during his daily walks up Divisadero. While driving a cable car and a trolley respectively for MUNI, Melvin van Peebles and Maya Angelou plotted their creative pursuits and the new discipline of African-centered pedagogy was seeded in the early research of Asa Hilliard in the pioneering Black Studies department at San Francisco State.
Historian/filmmaker/playwright John William Templeton, recently featured in major cover articles in the Bay Area News Group, San Francisco Chronicle and Palo Alto Weekly, lays out The San Francisco School of black literature, a movement that took more than 100 years to gestate out of the Underground Railroad and the seminal jazz dance and music that took flight from San Francisco’s waterfront, during a class in black arts and humanities at San Francisco State College of Ethnic Studies Thursday.
Templeton folllows up with a public tour on Sunday, April 26 through the underappreciated Haight-Divisadero corridor of historic buildings which survived the ravages of redevelopment beginning at 1 p.m. The tour starts at 422 Haight St. and proceeds past residences and hangouts of literary and music figures which still stand today, although unrecognized through any landmark designations. Cost for the tour is $15.
As San Francisco becomes the hub of the architecture world during the AIA conference next week, Templeton also provides a second tour giving shape and form to his exhibition JazzGenesis: San Francisco and the Birth of Jazz in the Visitor Information Center of the San Francisco Convention and Visitor Bureau to view the century-old buildings where black entrepreneurs and musicians spawned the first jazz bands and the fabled “animal dances” such as the Turkey Trot, Grizzly Bear and Texas Tommy on Thursday, April 30 at 4 p.m. Cost for that tour is also $15. It begins from Hallidie Plaza.
Templeton is author of Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California, Vols. 1-4 and “African-Americans in the West” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of African-American History.1619-1890. He is principal investigator of the Invisible Pioneers context statement study of African-American heritage in San Francisco with architect Miles Stevens and historian Dr. Johnetta Richards of San Francisco State, a project that the entire faculty of the SFSU Africana Studies Dept. is drawing upon to enrich student experiences.


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