While checking off the many items on your to-do list of San Francisco’ sightseeing attractions, if you’ve ever taken any of the San Francisco tours and more specifically the Alcatraz tours, apparently there has always been something missing. The infamous federal prison in the San Francisco Bay, which was active from the mid-thirties to the mid-sixties, was recently discovered to harbor many black prisoners – an aspect of its history that went largely unnoticed and unspoken of until the recent discovery of an archive of photos.
Any of the San Francisco tours will highlight the more notorious prisoners of the day, like Machine Gun Kelly and Al Capone, but they have neglected to point out that the prison also housed black prisoners; they represented about one third of the population. And like the outside American society, blacks at the time were segregated in their housing and dining facilities. But also mirroring what was going on in the outside world, there was activism happening over the years inside the prison when the sixties arrived.
A six year investigation prompted by the photos resulted in a documentary on this subject, “The Black Rock”, portions of which will now be available for viewing while touring Alcatraz. With the film, and photos making their way into history and on permanent display on Alcatraz, the information should now allow those taking San Francisco tours to receive a more detailed picture of reality as it existed on the rock.