Clarence Gatson was in the picture throughout the high times of San Francisco’s black population as photographer, feature editor and production manager of the San Francisco Sun Reporter for 17 years before his death in 1992.
The African-American Center of the San Francisco Main Library offers a rare look inside the period from the late 1960s to the early 1990s when African-Americans were almost ten percent of the city’s population on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 11 a.m. on the third floor.
Naomi Jelks, librarian of the African-American Center, is working with a team of scholars assembled by John William Templeton, executive producer of ReUNION: Education-Arts-Heritage, to catalog and document thousands of photographs which Gatson’s family has preserved. Dr. James Taylor, chair of political science at University of San Francisco; and Dr. Dorothy Tsuruta, chair of Africana studies at San Francisco State University are among those experts.
Persons who are knowledgeable about the period including those who came from Gatson’s neighborhood between Divisadero and Masonic Streets, a vibrant community of musicians, dramatists and educators drawn to the nightclubs on Divisadero during the 1960s and 1970s are encouraged to attend High Times in San Francisco to help identify persons in photos being prepared for an archival collection and future exhibitions. Gatson was also a member of Third Baptist Church and very active in the burgeoning black theater, gospel music and motion picture movements of the 1970s. He was a close friend to many of the leading entertainers of the period.
“This collection is an example of the many important artifacts which are in homes, particularly multi-generation families,” says Templeton, author of Come to the Water: Sharing the Rich Black Experience in San Francisco. “We’ve seen many interesting shots of persons who may not have survived such events as the AIDS epidemic, Jonestown or the spread of crack. These photos can be the only resource to document their impact on our community. Gatson, described by the late Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett as one of the Sun Reporter’s most valued employees, touched so many people that we look forward to witnessing history through their eyes.”