Simply acknowledging 92-year-old Betty Reid Soskin and her current role as the oldest National Park Ranger in the United States fails to capture the richness of her life’s experiences. Mrs. Reid Soskin is a also a historian, writer and prolific blogger who chronicles not only her past works but the lives of other pioneering African-Americans.
Born Betty Charbonnet on September 22, 1921 in Detroit, she lived in New Orleans until the age of six when a hurricane destroyed her family’s home and business. Her mother and two sisters headed to Northern California, establishing roots in the city of Oakland.
During World War II, Reid Soskin worked as a clerk for the Boilermakers Union A-36, an all-Black auxiliary unit. In her blog and in recent interviews, Reid Soskin has spoken extensively about her time working during WWII, acknowledging the Jim Crow laws of the time. In 1945, she and her first husband, Mel Reid, opened a Gospel record store in Berkeley, which is still in operation.
Running the business alone since 1978, Reid Soskin became a community activist. Although she was largely shielded from racism during much of her early time in the Bay Area, the 1950s would prove to be a challenge.
After moving to the predominately white town of Walnut Creek, Reid Soskin and her family endured racism, up to and including death threats. This period of Reid Soskin’s life was made tolerable via her alignment with a local Unitarian Universalist church congregation and the Black Caucus of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). For the next 20 years, the UUA and the Reid family worked in unison to bring understanding between Black and White citizens in the region.
By her own words, Reid Soskin was late to arrive to the Civil Rights Movement when she became involved in the 1960s, but she hasn’t looked back since. After divorcing her husband in 1972, she married University of California psychology professor William Soskin. She served as field representative for State Assemblywomen Dion Aroner and Loni Hancock, which led to her being involved in the development of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
Although she serves as the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park interpretative ranger, she doesn’t hinge her lessons the iconic World War II figure that represented female factory workers. In fact, Reid Soskin said in a recent NPR interview that she doesn’t identify with Rosie The Riveter, as that was the narrative for White women at the time.
She chooses instead to highlight her own life and that of other African-Americans during the Second World War.
For the past 10 years, Reid Soskin has maintained a blog where she shares intimate details of her own history and that of other pioneering African Americans. It is a fascinating and eloquent living document of Black history worthy of attention.
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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Continue reading Little Known Black History Fact: Betty Reid Soskin