THE MIDWINTER FAIR featured a special  "Afro-American Day" with festivities designed to recognize the many voices of the black community in San Francisco, which then numbered just under 2,000 people. The day began with a military parade, and led one commentator to reflect that "it was the first time a colored military company with muskets and uniforms had been seen in California. “(23) Following the outdoor activities, participants and spectators moved to the Festival Hall. A list of the day's events reveals a glimpse of the variety and range of such affairs a century ago:

 

Overture, by Midwinter Exposition Band; introductory remarks, Reverend W.B. Anderson of Stockton; remarks, by S. Wilson; address by Director-General de Young; music by the Exposition Band; address, by T. B. Morton, President of the Afro-American League; address, by Reverend Obediah Summers; tenor solo, by Oscar T. Jackson; paper on "The Higher Education of Women," by Miss A. Hall; piano solo, by Mrs. Pauline Burns of Oakland; oration, by Reverend Tighman Brown; music by the Exposition Band; address, by Dudley Seebree recitation, by Miss Alma Norrell; piano solo, by Professor John Williamson; dramatic recitation, by James Summers; vocal solo, by Miss Rosa Sugg; piano solo, by Miss Hattie Overton; trombone and cornet selections, by Ed. E. Jones; music by Exposition Band; benediction by Reverend S. H. Smith…. The Afro-American Day exercises will close with a ball tonight in Festival Hall. There will be a select programme of dances, including the Spanish York, La Marjolaine, the Oxford Minuet, the Illinois and the Berlin.(24)

 

For the modern reader there are some striking features about this list: the mixture of music and spoken words in a formal gathering; the variety of topics covered; and the sheer length of the program. It is especially interesting to note that the main paper delivered dealt with the education of women -- not the education of African-Americans, or even the education of African-American women. It was apparently the case that the music and the range of topics addressed reflected not only the specific internal concerns of the black community but also the universal range of their interests as participants in the American community.

REVEREND OBEDIAH SMITH

REVEREND OBEDIAH SMITH

Nevertheless, much of the actual content of the main addresses was concerned with race relations. In his keynote address, de Young praised the efforts at self-improvement and self-advancement on the part of African-Americans, and noted what he conceived to be an improvement in their lot since the Civil War. De Young's optimistic view was qualified in a subsequent speech by Reverend Obediah Summers from Oakland, who commented that "if the mechanics' unions and other industrial organizations were open to us we might have had a building which would have been a credit to us and to the Fair"25-a clear reference and objection to the color barriers in the skilled trades. Nevertheless, Reverend Summers found that prejudice against his people was gradually disappearing in America. He concluded, addressing his remarks directly to de Young:

America is holding out its hand to us as you did today. There was a time in this history of this nation when I could not stand on the same platform with men of another race or reply to your address. We did not bring thousands here today, but we came ourselves to show our appreciation of your work, and may God bless you, Sir.(25)

African-American pride found several outlets at the Midwinter Exposition. Perhaps the most striking instance was the effort on the part of one woman, Mrs. Case, to have an exhibit of work by black students given space in the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building. She appealed successfully to the Executive Committee of the fair and placed an exhibit by a black Christian student organization from Georgia's Atlanta University in a section adjacent to an exhibit from Yale University in the second floor gallery. The Atlanta exhibit consisted of wood joining, printing, and scrap sewing done by students from all grades at the school. The exhibit attracted much praise and was awarded a first prize medal by the judges.