Library Branches to Celebrate Marin City History

The 10-branch exhibit showcases Black American history

San Rafael, CA – From July 1 through September 30, Marin County Free Library patrons can experience a view of Black American life during World War II in Marin with a comprehensive exhibit, “The Legacy of Marin City: A California Black History Story (1942-1960).” 

All 10 branches of the library system will host a unique display of photographs, keepsakes, and personal remembrances from Black shipyard workers and their families that feature the journey of many families and individuals from the Jim Crow South to Marin City. Patrons are encouraged to visit various branches to view each exhibit.

“A public library is a repository of stories, and those stories open windows and doors to lives you may not know or understand,” said MCFL Director Lana Adlawan. “We celebrate the stories of Black pioneers who came to Marin to start new lives, against incredible odds. This exhibit showcases the power of hope and love in families creating better lives for themselves and their future generations. MCFL honors this history and centers it as a story of the place we call home.”

Marin City, a vibrant and diverse community between Sausalito and Mill Valley, traces its roots to the onset of World War II and the Marinship manufacturing operations. Families from all over the United States came west to work at various shipyards in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Marin City was developed as temporary workforce housing for Marinship. 

It was primarily Black American laborers from the southern United States who answered the call to duty as part of the Great Migration. Marinship and its workers contributed significantly to the war effort by constructing Liberty ships and tankers. From summer 1942 until the end of the war in September 1945, 93 ships were launched from the Sausalito docks. The vessels were pivotal in the transportation of Allied troops and supplies across the globe. 

The cumulative exhibit builds on the existing partnership with the Marin City Historical and Preservation Society, the Marin Community Foundation, County of Marin, Dominican University, and the Marin County Office of Education. Library patrons will be encouraged to visit other branches and continue learning for the duration of the exhibition.

Author Felecia Gaston’s newly published book about Marin City, “A Brand New Start … This is Home[External],” is now available at school and public libraries across Marin County. The book focuses primarily on the relocated workers and families who experienced housing and societal challenges during the war and thereafter.

MCFL and its partners worked closely with Gaston to create the exhibit. A preeminent historian and respected leader in Marin City for decades, Gaston is the founder and curator of the Marin City Historical & Preservation Society, designed to celebrate Black American contributions to Marin City. She is also the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Performing Stars of Marin and was a 1999 inductee into the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame.

"I am beyond excited to see Marin City's Black history in 10 different libraries throughout Marin County,” Gaston said. “We are building community, increasing visibility to promote equality, connecting our communities, fostering appreciation and understanding of the significant contributions made by the many residents throughout the years." 

Earlier this spring, educators in Marin County were introduced to new materials based on Gaston’s book to teach Marin City history in local classrooms. 

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Marin County Free Library