Rosie the Riveter Visitors’ Center Grand Opening

By Tanya Dennis

Black Rosie the Riveter

The new visitors’ center at Rosie the Riveter Home Front National Park will house a treasure trove of World War II history. The center, located behind the Craneway Pavilion in the Richmond Marina in Richmond, will open Saturday, May 26. The national park opened in 2000. “The story of the World War II home front is a significant chapter in America’s history where the greatest mobilization of people occurred since the building of the pyramids,” said park ranger Betty Reid Soskin, “This is a story that many people think they know, but they have no idea how profoundly America was changed by what happened here, especially in regards to the contributions African-Americans made and how Henry J. Kaiser, who had never built a ship, changed the face of the war, migration to California and industry in the East Bay, ” she said. During the Great Depression, Kaiser went to the South and recruited Black workers from Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas, and White workers from the Dust Bowl, building a labor force at a time when most young men were in the military, she said. “Old white men too old to fight, young white boys too young to go, single women, married women, Black men and in 1944, Black women – that’s why the Rosie the Riveter story is primarily a white woman’s story because Black women weren’t allowed to work until late into the war effort,” said Soskin. Kaiser hired 98,000 people working three shifts around the clock.  He was one of the first to use pre-fabrication and could build a “Victory Ship” in 4 days, 15 hours, and 23 minutes with unskilled labor.  Workers built 747 ships in three years and eight months, launching a ship every other day out of Richmond, according to Soskin. It was in Richmond “that tension in the workplace regarding race and gender started –I’d say this is where Civil Rights issues came to a head,” Soskin said.  “ It was here that Jim Crow was challenged regarding housing, schools and in the workplace.” The Rosie the Riveter Park contains 32 miles of shoreline bike trails.  The state is currently creating a kayak trail that follows the bike trail.  The park encompasses the Ford Factory where T-Model’s were assembled then jeeps and tanks. For information on the museum and park, go to www.nps.gov/rori/index.htm or call (510) 232-5050 ex 0.
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