National News

History in San Francisco With the Election of a Black Female Mayor

Posted June 14, 2018 11:18 a.m. EDT

The election of London Breed as mayor of San Francisco, which was all but made official Wednesday when Mark Leno, the runner-up in the election, conceded defeat, was a remarkable victory.

Breed is the first African-American woman to hold the post in San Francisco. And San Francisco is now the largest U.S. city with a female mayor.

For many black people in the city, Breed’s election has a special resonance, one that rekindles the hope that the long and steady decline of San Francisco’s African-American population might be stanched or even reversed.

“We were fast becoming an invisible people in this city,” said the Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church, where Breed is a congregant. “Maybe we can now stop this hemorrhaging.”

John William Templeton, a historian of black culture and business in San Francisco, said he hoped Breed could serve as a beacon and a magnet for black entrepreneurs across the country.

“The campaign got a lot of people around the country interested in San Francisco who wouldn’t have thought about it before,” he said.

Templeton contrasts the many individual successes of black people in San Francisco with the collective poverty of African-Americans overall in the city. Black people have a median income that is a fraction of that for whites or Asians.

“Blacks have succeeded individually but not as a group,” he said.

In a city where black people make up less than 5 percent of the population, the chief of police, the city administrator, the superintendent of schools and the head of the public works department are all African-Americans.

Templeton points to both the racist policies toward blacks and Chinese people of decades past and the city’s current evangelizing spirit of tolerance.

Breed’s election, he said, “reflects the best of San Francisco as a western sanctuary where people who didn’t have opportunities in other places could come.”