She became a park ranger at 85 to tell her story of segregation. Now 100, she’s the oldest active ranger.

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2021-09-27 19:21Z by Steven

She became a park ranger at 85 to tell her story of segregation. Now 100, she’s the oldest active ranger.

The Washington Post
2021-09-24

Sydney Page


Betty Reid Soskin at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, Calif. Soskin is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service. (Luther Bailey/NPS photo)

When asked how it feels to be 100 years old, Betty Reid Soskin gave a subtle shrug, smiled and said: “The same way I felt at 99.”

But she’s not just any centenarian: Soskin is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service, and after celebrating her birthday on Sept. 22, she’s still going strong.

Seated in the study of her apartment in Richmond, Calif., dressed proudly in her park ranger uniform, Soskin reflected on her life.

When it comes to sharing her story, Soskin is not shy. As a park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, she spends her days recounting her rich and complicated history, in the hope that her firsthand account will resonate with people, and encourage them to share their own stories.

“I think everyone’s story is very important. There is so much diversity,” Soskin said. “It’s in that mix that the great secret of a democracy exists.”…

Read the entire article here.

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When the war started, she took a job in an Air Force office, where she was surprised to realize she was passing for white. She set the record straight, and asked if she would still get her promotion. The answer was no. “I walked out on the U.S. government and told them to shove it,” she later wrote in her 2018 memoir “Sign My Name to Freedom.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2021-09-21 03:42Z by Steven

For many who came west, the war years brought increased opportunity, and rising expectations, which would help fuel the civil rights and women’s movements. For Ms. [Betty Reid] Soskin, who had grown up in racially mixed neighborhoods and schools, it also brought her first experiences with overt, formal segregation.

When the war started, she took a job in an Air Force office, where she was surprised to realize she was passing for white. She set the record straight, and asked if she would still get her promotion. The answer was no. “I walked out on the U.S. government and told them to shove it,” she later wrote in her 2018 memoir “Sign My Name to Freedom.”

That same week, her husband Mel, a star college athlete who’d enlisted in the Navy only to be relegated to working as a cook, left the service. “He was going to fight for his country,” she said. “But he found out he could only cook for his country.”

Jennifer Schuessler, “‘America’s Oldest Park Ranger’ Is Only Her Latest Chapter,” The New York Times, September 20, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/20/us/betty-reid-soskin-100.html.

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‘America’s Oldest Park Ranger’ Is Only Her Latest Chapter

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2021-09-21 00:50Z by Steven

‘America’s Oldest Park Ranger’ Is Only Her Latest Chapter

The New York Times
2021-09-20

Jennifer Schuessler


Chanell Stone for The New York Times

Betty Reid Soskin has fought to ensure that American history includes the stories that get overlooked. As she turns 100, few stories have been more remarkable than hers.

The Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park, which sprawls across the former shipyards in Richmond, Calif., on the northeast edge of San Francisco Bay, tells the enormous story of the largest wartime mobilization in American history and the sweeping social changes it sparked.

Visitors can climb aboard an enormous Victory ship, one of more than 700 vessels produced in Richmond — and, in the gift shop, pick up swag emblazoned with the iconic image of the red-kerchiefed Rosie herself, arm flexed up with “We Can Do It!” bravado.

But for many, the park is synonymous with another woman: Betty.

Betty Reid Soskin, who turns 100 on Sept. 22, is the oldest active ranger in the National Park Service. Over the past decade and a half, she has become both an icon of the service and an unlikely celebrity, drawing overflow crowds to talks and a steady stream of media interviewers eager for the eloquent words of an indomitable 5 feet 3 inch great-grandmother once described by a colleague as “sort of like Bette Davis, Angela Davis and Yoda all rolled into one.”…

Read the entire article here.

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National Park Service’s Betty Reid Soskin Publishes Memoir at 96

Posted in Audio, Autobiography, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-02-20 01:12Z by Steven

National Park Service’s Betty Reid Soskin Publishes Memoir at 96

Forum
KQED Radio
San Francisco, California
2018-02-16

Mina Kim, Host

Betty Reid Soskin’s lectures at Richmond’s Rosie the Riveter Museum have garnered her national attention, including a visit with President Obama in 2015. Soskin’s talks reflect on the oft-overlooked African-American wartime experience and how opportunities for black women have changed throughout her lifetime. Now the 96-year-old has written a memoir, “Sign My Name to Freedom,” documenting her history as a political activist, musician and entrepreneur. A longtime resident of the East Bay, Soskin illustrates how the Bay Area laid the groundwork for the national civil rights movement.

Listen to the interview (00:34:56) here. Download the interview here.

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Sign My Name to Freedom: A Memoir of a Pioneering Life

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2018-02-20 00:00Z by Steven

Sign My Name to Freedom: A Memoir of a Pioneering Life

Hay House Inc.
2018-02-06
248 pages
6.3 x 1 x 9.1 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9781401954215

Betty Reid Soskin

In Betty Reid Soskin’s 96 years of living, she has been a witness to a grand sweep of American history. When she was born in 1921, the lynching of African-Americans was a national epidemic, blackface minstrel shows were the most popular American form of entertainment, white women had only just won the right to vote, and most African-Americans in the Deep South could not vote at all. From her great-grandmother, who had been enslaved until her mid-20s, Betty heard stories of slavery and the times of terror and struggle for black folk that followed. In her lifetime, Betty has watched the nation begin to confront its race and gender biases when forced to come together in the World War II era; seen our differences nearly break us apart again in the upheavals of the civil rights and Black Power eras; and, finally, lived long enough to witness both the election of an African-American president and the re-emergence of a militant, racist far right.

The child of proud Louisiana Creole parents who refused to bow down to Southern discrimination, Betty was raised in the Bay Area black community before the great westward migration of World War II. After working in the civilian home front effort in the war years, she and her husband, Mel Reid, helped break down racial boundaries by moving into a previously all-white community east of the Oakland hills, where they raised four children while resisting the prejudices against the family that many of her neighbors held.

With Mel, she opened up one of the first Bay Area record stores in Berkeley both owned by African-Americans and dedicated to the distribution of African-American music. Her volunteer work in rehabilitating the community where the record shop began eventually led her to a paid position as a state legislative aide, helping to plan the innovative Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, then to a “second” career as the oldest park ranger in the history of the National Park Service. In between, she used her talents as a singer and songwriter to interpret and chronicle the great American social upheavals that marked the 1960s.

In 2003, Betty displayed a new talent when she created the popular blog CBreaux Speaks, sharing the sometimes fierce, sometimes gently persuasive, but always brightly honest story of her long journey through an American and African-American life. Blending together selections from many of Betty’s hundreds of blog entries with interviews, letters, and speeches, Sign My Name to Freedom invites you along on that journey, through the words and thoughts of a national treasure who has never stopped looking at herself, the nation, or the world with fresh eyes.

Contents

  • Editor’s Note
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1 Creole/Black Cajun New Orleans
  • Chapter 2 Growing Up in Pre-War Bay Area
  • Chapter 3 Marriage and the War Years
  • Chapter 4 Into the Lion’s Den
  • Chapter 5 Breaking Down, Breaking Up
  • Chapter 6 The Movement Years
  • Chapter 7 An Emancipated Woman
  • Chapter 8 Richmond and Rosie and Betty the Ranger
  • Chapter 9 Shining Bright at Twilight: Lessons of a Life Long Lived
  • Epilogue
  • Index
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the Author
  • About the Editor
  • Credits
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