Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era

This title will ship on February 4, 2020.

In the 1940s and 50s, a jazz aficionado could find paradise in the nightclubs of San Francisco’s Fillmore District: Billie Holiday sang at the Champagne Supper Club; Chet Baker and Dexter Gordon jammed with the house band at Bop City; and T-Bone Walker rubbed shoulders with the locals at the bar of Texas Playhouse. The Fillmore was one of the few neighborhoods in the Bay Area where people of color could go for entertainment, and so many legendary African American musicians performed there for friends and family that the neighborhood was known as the Harlem of the West. Over a dozen clubs dotted the twenty-block-radius. Filling out the streets were restaurants, pool halls, theaters, and stores, many of them owned and run by African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Filipino Americans. The entire neighborhood was a giant multicultural party pulsing with excitement and music. In 220 lovingly restored images and oral accounts from residents and musicians, Harlem of the West captures a joyful, exciting time in San Francisco, and reveals a momentous part of the country’s African American musical heritage.

Praise

“[A] consummate, tightly edited look back at an exuberant way of life.”—Publishers Weekly

About the Authors

Elizabeth Pepin Silva is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, photographer, writer, and former day manager of the historic Fillmore Auditorium. She holds a degree in journalism from San Francisco State University.
Lewis Watts is a photographer, archivist, and professor emeritus of art at UC Santa Cruz with a longstanding interest in the cultural landscape of the African diaspora in the Bay Area and internationally.