Harlem of the West Talk


Thursday, February 22, 2018 6:00PM

Harlem of the West Talk





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Harlem of the West Talk


Join California Historical Society (CHS) and the authors of the powerful project, The Harlem of the West San Francisco Project. They will share it through a presentation of images, discuss the history of Harlem of the West, and take questions from the audience.

What is the Harlem of the West SF Project?

Harlem of the West SF Project is a book, website and photographic exhibit that celebrates the bustling Fillmore jazz era of the 1940s and 1950s, a period when the Fillmore was a vibrant neighborhood of more than two dozen nightclubs and music venues within its one square mile---all of which virtually vanished due to redevelopment in the 1960s. The project celebrates a unique and rediscovered chapter in jazz history and the African American experience on the West Coast.

The Harlem of the West SF Project includes three components:

  • 1. Book- In 2006, Chronicle Books published the first version of the book, “Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era.” A tiny website was launched and an exhibit was created from the materials gathered for that early book. Unfortunately, after two pressings, the book was put out of print. Responding to an ongoing demand, Pepin Silva and Watts decided to launch the Harlem of the West Project, creating a new edition of the book, adding in newly discovered photographs and memorabilia, as well as additional interviews with those who lived and played in the Fillmore at the height of its glory.
  • 2. Website- A new website has also been created so that anyone around the world can hear the entire recorded interviews of people featured in the book, plus view photographs and additional stories of the neighborhood. www.harlemofthewestsf.com
  • 3. Exhibit- The exhibition marks the return of the popular Harlem of the West exhibit. This exhibition was organized by the Museum of Performance & Design (MPD) and was originally displayed at MPD in 2006 in conjunction with the publication of a book of the same title from Chronicle Books. Curated by the book’s authors, Elizabeth Pepin Silva and Lewis Watts, the new exhibition features nearly sixty rare archival photographs of the Fillmore at its height in 1940s and 1950s, including photos inside of famed clubs such as Jimbo’s Bop City.
  • To learn more about the Harlem of the West SF Project, go to the website.

    About the Authors:

    Elizabeth Pepin Silva is a photographer, writer, filmmaker and former day manager at the historic Fillmore Auditorium. Elizabeth has been conducting oral histories and research of the Fillmore neighborhood since 1986 and is author of Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era. For more than 20 years she has been making films independently and for PBS and has won five Emmy Awards and several film festival awards for her television and documentary film work, including The Fillmore: The Hidden Neighborhoods of San Francisco and Coastal Clash. Her photographs have been exhibited in galleries and museums such as the San Jose Museum of Art and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and have been featured in numerous books and magazines. She is currently writing a new book about San Francisco’s 1970s and ‘80s alternative music scene. Raised in San Francisco and the Bay Area, she currently lives Ojai, CA.

    Lewis Watts is a photographer, archivist/curator and Professor Emeritus of Art at UC Santa Cruz where he taught for 14 years and before that at UC Berkeley. His work centers around the “cultural landscape” primarily in communities occupied by people of African descent. He is the author of Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era 2006, 2017 and New Orleans Suite: Music and Culture in Transition UC Press 2013. His work has been exhibited at and is in the collections of The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Citè de La Musique, Paris France, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, The Oakland Museum of California, The Amistad Center for Art and Culture, Hartford, Conn, among others. He is currently working on photographic projects “the Black Presence in France” and migration throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa which is an extension of his earlier work on the Great African American migration in the 20th Century. He is also working on an archive project where he is decontextualizing historical books and artifacts by and about African American authors and subject matter from the 19th. Century and early 20th. Century. Work from this research has been shown at the Amistad Center for Art and Culture and Trinity College in Hartford and the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco.

    Calendar Image Citation: Cover, John Handy, Pony Poindexter, John Coltrane and Frank Fisher jamming at Jimbos’ Bop City, circa early 1950s. Photo by Steve Jackson Jr.

    Event Image, Citation: Eartha Kitt with neighborhood children at the Champagne Supper Club, December 1953.


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