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.
2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
2 of 31
3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
7 of 31
8 of 31
9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
9 of 31
10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
10 of 31
11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
11 of 31
12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
12 of 31
13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
13 of 31
14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
14 of 31
15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
15 of 31
16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
16 of 31
17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
17 of 31
18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
18 of 31
19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
22 of 31
23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
23 of 31
24. Diggy Simmons
24 of 31
25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
25 of 31
26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
26 of 31
27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
27 of 31
28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
28 of 31
29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
29 of 31
30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
30 of 31
31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
31 of 31
Continue reading Little Known Black History Fact: Betty Reid Soskin