Teenager’s courage a century apart defined San Francisco’s civil rights impact

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Tamam Tracy Moncur was just months away from graduating from Berkeley High School.  But when she summoned 2,000 demonstrators to sit-in at the Palace Hotel, she rocked the city’s establishment.     The scenes of police carrying students out of the venerable establishment caused Mayor John Shelley to call all 37 of the city’s major hotels to meet with the 18-year-old leader of the Ad Hoc Coalition and her colleagues.

On March 6, 1964, they reached an agreement to integrate employment in the entire local hospitality industry, just six months after sit-ins began at Mel’s Drive-In.

On the 50th anniversary of that little-known civil rights milestone, Come to the Water: Teaching San Francisco Black History describes the United San Francisco Freedom Movement, subject of an exhibition Students and Scholars Marching for Civil Rights: The 50th anniversary of the United San Francisco Freedom Movement, at 3 p.m. at the Visitor Center Theater, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, 499 Jefferson St. in Fisherman’s Wharf.

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Almost a century earlier, another local teen, Charlotte Brown, desegregated local streetcars in 1864 by refusing to go to the back of the vehicle.  Come to the Water shows the relationship of the ongoing freedom movement which continued from the Underground Railroad through such contemporary milestones as the integration of labor unions, end of colonialism, and passage of national civil rights legislation.

The African-American Freedom Trail illustrates the physical footprint of those activities across the city.  The exhibition closes on March 6 at Pier One, the headquarters of the Port of San Francisco, before moving to the Black Coalition on AIDS/Rafiki Wellness, 601 Cesar Chavez on Monday, March 10.

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