For nearly two decades from 1915 to 1934, Oakland Tribune columnist Delilah L. Beasley chronicled the lives and activities of African-Americans both locally and across the country. She was the first African-American woman to write for a major metropolitan daily newspaper, according to history files.
Her painstakingly researched treatise published in 1919 was titled "The Negro Trail Blazers of California," and was the first comprehensive history of black pioneers. Experts now say her work firmly establishes that people of African descent played key roles in western settlement.
Beasley's life and times are chronicled in a biography by local historian Lorraine Crouchett, "Delilah Beasley: Oakland's Crusading Journalist."
According to Crouchett, Beasley was born in Cincinnati shortly after the Civil War, was orphaned at an early age, and had to cut short her formal education.
She nevertheless showed an early interest in journalism and eventually came to California in 1910 when she was 44. Beasley, who never married, worked as a masseuse in sanitariums and treatment centers while contributing pieces to local papers like the "Oakland Sunshine," a publication for African-American readers.
Oakland Tribune Publisher Joseph Knowland offered her weekly space in his paper, starting in 1923. The column was called "Activities Among the Negroes."
Beasley, who lived her last years in North Oakland, in a Queen Anne style duplex on 34th Street, died 78 years ago, on Aug. 18, 1934. She is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery; her marker reads "Author and Columnist, a native of Ohio and for 25 years a resident of Oakland."
On Sept. 15, Progressive Oakland Women for Empowerment and Reform, or POWER, is hosting the annual Ms. Delilah Beasley Tea from 2 to 4 p.m. in the gardens of the historic Pardee Home Museum, 672 11th Street, in Oakland.
Richelle Lieberman, a member of POWER and co-chair for the event, came up with the idea for a tea.
"Our group formed last year to put on the Oakland Suffrage Parade," Lieberman said. "We wanted to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of women getting the vote in California. After that we hosted a symposium on women's issues at Mills College in March, during Women's History Month.
"This latest event is to not only to honor the late Delilah Beasley, but to welcome a chapter of the Girls, Inc. organization to Oakland. Girls Incorporated will be moving in soon to their new downtown headquarters, once the building's renovations are completed."
POWER also plans to bestow a lifetime achievement award to longtime television Belva Davis at the event.
"We are excited to have Ms. Davis be on hand for our event, because she is such an inspiration to young people who seek to pursue a career in journalism and public affairs," Lieberman said. A portion of the tea's proceeds will benefit the Girls, Inc. Building Fund. Duggested donations are $12 per person and it's free for under 18. For more information on the activities and programs offered by Girls, Inc., go to www.girlsinc-alameda.org.
Space is limited for the tea; to make a reservation call 510-444-2159, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A collection of Delilah Beasley's writings is available at the Oakland Library History Room. Call 510-238-3222 for hours.