Growing up in Bakersfield, blacks enjoyed a good life despite the overt presence of discrimination in many areas. One such place where racial discrimination was highly evident was the famous Oildale Circle, in Oildale California… an area which separates itself from Bakersfield. In the middle of the town, a statue stands of Catholic Spanish priest, Father Francisco Graces, Stuart over the businesses of Oil Barons. South of the
Circle were Cotton Pickers and other field hands, Blacks were not allowed. Better- paying jobs in the Oil fields of Oildale were not available to Blacks because Blacks were not allowed North of Bakersfield.
In the Circle, the use of a religion to substantiate America’s racist capitalism, Oildale followed the playbook of contradictive inequitable dominance with Father Francisco in the center of town. However, in Bakersfield, Women were the Center of life. Early on, women worked in many different roles such as operating elevators, stocking merchandise in department stores, and other behind the scenes business roles, but not allowed to work in the front of the store. This would change over time for Bakersfield and its surrounding cities such as Oildale, Buttonwillow, Arvin and Carversville.
The names Shirley Chisholm, Maxine Waters, and Kamala Harris are well-known throughout the world as evidence of social changes. Not known are names like Susie Bell Nicholas Brothers who was born in Clay County, Mississippi. She moved to Bakersfield, California where she was instrumental in founding the Bakersfield Singers Association, in 1959. Using her skills, as a seamstress, she started a fashion design
business and an interior decorator and wedding consultant business. She married Theodore Brothers in the Black town of Lima, Oklahoma, before they moved to Bakersfield.
Another Bakersfield resident was Christina McClanahan who wanted to become a Beautician but was not allowed in Beauty School in Bakersfield, so she attended Beauty School in Los Angeles and eventually started her own business in Bakersfield. She operated her own shop for eight years. McClanahan was appointed to the Bakersfield School Board after running three times and serving the balance of an empty
Katherine Christine Hopkins, from Oklahoma, made Bakersfield her home also. She borrowed fifty dollars and opened a clothing and furniture store on the infamous Cottonwood Road. She used her prior experience operating a pie business to make this business a success.
A book written by Fred Luther Haynes, entitled “African American Women Trailblazers” chronicles the lives of multiple Black Women who came to Kern County from the south for a better life, only to find the fight would have to continue no matter where they were in America. A new book by April Ryan entitled, "Black Women Will Save The World" reports on the work of strong influential black women and how remembering their history of perseverance is essential to our future… remembering to past, respecting and building upon their accomplishments is a collective Sisterhood of faith and action that must help change the world.