Harlem of the West
Written by Pepin & Watts

Harlem of the West

Billie Holiday singing at the Champagne Supper Club. Dexter Gordon hanging out at Bop City. Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane all dropping in for jam sessions. A nostalgic snapshot from the New York or Chicago jazz scenes? Nope. was San Francisco's Fillmore District in its heyday.

The Fillmore in the 1940s and 1950s was a swinging, integrated, and hopping neighborhood dotted with restaurants, pool halls, theaters, and shops -- many minority-owned and boasting more than two dozen active nightclubs and music joints within its one square mile.

Although it has been commemorated in songs, poems, and in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, few people today know of the rich history of the Fillmore and its musical legacy because it vanished abruptly and so thoroughly due to redevelopment in the 1960s. Through dozens of archival photographs and oral accounts from the neighborhood residents and musicians who experienced it at its height, Harlem of the West celebrates this unique and rediscovered chapter in jazz history and the African-American experience on the West Coast.

If you can ID someone in an uncaptioned photograph or have Fillmore memorabilia you'd like to share, please contact us!
San Francisco
San Francisco