“Betty Reid Soskin is a revelation; her story, a window into a more complicated, heroic, inclusive 20th century, her life a testament to affirmation in the face of adversity. That she might also-amidst a set of astonishing careers-become a protector and interpreter of our National Parks only makes her story that much more astonishing.”
SIGN MY NAME TO FREEDOM
This is my first published book, a collection of my writings about my personal history and my reflections on the world around me. I’m proud to announce that it’s finally ready. I am proud to share the story of my long and wisening life.
BETTY REID SOSKIN
A Memoir of a Pioneering Life
Betty Charbonnet Reid Soskin is an author, composer and singer, social and political activist, entrepreneur, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, historian, blogger, public speaker, and National Park Service Ranger whose remarkable life spans the great American fault lines of the 20th and early 21st centuries.
Born into a Cajun/Creole African-American family in 1921, she spent her early years in New Orleans in the era of lynchings and Jim Crow segregation. Her family later settled in Oakland, California, following the historic floods that devastated the City of New Orleans in 1927. As a file clerk in an all-Black segregated union hall during World War II, she was witness to the flood-tide of Black and white workers who poured into the Bay area wartime shipyards, a mass migration that changed the face and social fabric of California and helped usher in the civil rights era.
Along with her first husband, Mel Reid, Betty helped integrate the East Bay suburbs by moving their family into a previously white neighborhood. Betty and Mel also founded one of the first Black-owned record shop businesses in California. After working with elected officials to rehabilitate the block on which the record shop was located, Betty served on the staff of a Berkeley City Councilmember and then as field representative to two members of the California State Assembly.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, she was active in the Bay Area’s Civil Rights and Black Power movements, as well as the movement to end the Vietnam War.
In 1995 Betty was named a “Woman of the Year” by the California State Legislature. In 2005 she was named one of the nation’s ten outstanding women, “Builders of communities and dreams” by the National Women’s History Project in ceremonies in both Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and in Washington, D.C.
As a California State Assembly field representative, Betty was instrumental in the establishment of Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, in 2000. She was later hired to work at the Rosie the Riveter Park, and is the oldest ranger in the National Park Service at 96. She is a highly sought-after public speaker and her blog, CBreaux Speaks, has thousands of followers.
Betty continues to work for the National Park Service. She lives in Richmond, California.