A partial timeline of Oakland history, and where some* of the people in Legendary Locals of Oakland fit in.
The Ohlone live in the Bay Area including what is now Oakland for thousands of years before the Spanish arrive, but the Mission era and statehood devastates the native population, reducing it to a tiny fraction of the former levels.
Today their descendants are working to rediscover their past culture.
Juan Bautista de Anza expedition arrives
From 1775 to 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza leads an expedition of soldiers, priests, and colonists from New Spain into “Alta California”. Some of the members of the expedition are Afro-Latinos from Mexico, seeking a better life.
On September 5, 1850, California becomes a U.S. state.
Oakland becomes a town
The Town of Oakland is incorporated on May 4, 1852, based on the efforts of Horace Carpentier. Prior to passage of the bill creating the town, the area was a village known as “Contra Costa” (meaning the ‘other coast’).
Horace Carpentier becomes first mayor
On April 4, 1854, Horace Carpentier is elected Oakland’s first mayor by more votes than there are voters.
Most of the dangerous and back-breaking work of pushing the first transcontinental railroad through the western mountains is relegated to poorly paid Chinese workers. Many executives of the railroad fully expect to ship the workers to China when the work is done.
Following the passage of the Organic Act of March 23, 1868, the University of California is formed. The College of California becomes the College of Letters and Science. The university moves to Berkeley a few years later.
Great Earthquake of 1868
On October 21, 1868, a powerful earthquake strikes on the Hayward Fault. The East Bay is sparsely populated, but the quake kills 30 people.
On May 6, 1882, president Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law. The law prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers, and those Chinese already here had to register or risk deportation. The law wasn’t full repealed until 1943.
On March 13, 1914, the new city hall building opens to the public. Called “Mott’s Wedding Cake” by the press, the building was the tallest west of the Mississippi when constructed, and the tallest in Oakland until 1960.
On May 12, 1931, Wilhelmine Yoakum becomes the first woman elected to Oakland city council. Unfortunately it was more than 15 years until the next woman was elected, and more than 25 years after that in 1977 for the third, Mary Moore.
Slim Jenkins Club opens
On December 5, 1933, the day after Prohibition ends, Slim Jenkins opens his club.
Segregation through a practice known as redlining begins with the National Housing Act of 1934, but many areas of Oakland already had existing covenants and guidelines to keep blacks and other people of color from living in those neighborhoods.
Not everyone goes along with Executive Order 9066 quietly. Fred Korematsu goes into hiding, but is eventually arrested. He appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but loses. Many years later, it found that the solicitor general of the U.S. had suppressed FBI data that showed Japanese Americans were not a risk, and Korematsu’s conviction was formally vacated.
Between 1940 and 1945, the combination of wartime industries and staging for war in the Pacific causes the population of the Bay Area to boom. In Oakland, it grows from 302,163 to 405,301, more than a 25% increase. The black population of Oakland grows even faster, by more than 400%.
1946 General Strike
In November 1946, 425 mostly women workers at Kahn’s and Hasting’s department stores go on strike for wage equality. Officials bring in police and strike breakers to try to end the strike, but instead the strikers are joined by other unions and eventually 130,000 strikers shut down the city for more than two days.
The first comic strip with a diverse ethnic makeup of children appears in a newspaper on February 15, 1965. Morrie Turner’s “Wee Pals” is initially in 5 papers; following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it appeared in over 100.
Frank Ogawa was appointed to Oakland city council in 1966 to fill a vacant seat, and was subsequently re-elected multiple times. He was the first Japanese-American on the city council, and served from 1966-1994, the longest tenure of any council member.
Dr. Raymond Eng elected to council
In 1967, not long after Frank Ogawa’s appointment to fill a vacant city council seat, Dr. Raymond Eng is elected to city council, becoming the first Chinese-American on council.
On October 19, 1991, Oakland firefighters battle a 5-acre brush fire. The next day the fire explodes, spread by high winds. The Oakland firestorm kills 25 people including a firefighter and a police officer, and destroys nearly 3,000 buildings.
On January 1, 2009, Oscar Grant is killed by a BART police officer, shot in the back while laying face down. The shooting is captured on video and quickly spreads, leading to a national uproar and ongoing protests in Oakland.