“Local legend, national treasure, and force of nature, Soskin describes her multifaceted journey in her book: “It’s like reincarnation without ever leaving.”
Chapter 1: Creole/Black Cajun in New Orleans
Chapter 2: Growing Up in the Pre-War Bay Area
Chapter 3: Marriage and the War Years
Chapter 4: Into the Lion’s Den
Chapter 5: Breaking Down, Breaking Up
Chapter 6: The Movement Years
Chapter 7: An Emancipated Woman
Chapter 8: Richmond and Rosie and Betty the Ranger
Chapter 9: Shining Bright at Twilight: Lessons of A Life Long Lived
Order your copy from Reid’s Records, Berkeley, CA
The book is not a traditional, linear autobiography. Like memory, it circles back and forth in time frequently. Some stories are repeated as the different Bettys backtrack to reexamine and re-assimilate them. As documentation of an extraordinary life, it is priceless.
Click on this link to read a review that provides an overview of her unique life experiences. Betty Soskin’s memoir “Sign My Name to Freedom”
Biographical Tidbits about this Amazing Woman
As a National Park Ranger, Rosie the Riveter Park, Richmond Ca. Betty played a major part in shaping this Park. She reminded the planners of the rich African American and multicultural history of the World War II period that should be included in Park displays, which it is because of her input. Betty is an expert on issues of race during World War II in the shipyards of Richmond and Port Chicago. She is a very popular interpreter and sought after speaker about this National resource.
At 96 yrs old, she is the oldest National Park Ranger in the USA.
Self-styled African American cultural anthropologist and writer focusing on African American history and sociological development, she is the recipient of numerous awards for her public service, role modeling, and educational abilities as a popular speaker for civic organizations. Betty received an Honorary Doctorate from Mills College, Oakland California for her educational work about the multicultural contributions during World War II and her community activism. This is not the only honorary degree she has been given. She received an honorary doctorate from the College of the Arts in San Francisco for her lifetime achievements, as well as other prestigious awards.
Since the 1940s, she has been one of the owners of a family music and cultural resources store serving the African American community. Liz previously produced a video segment for Rise Up & Call Her Name which focuses on the range of political/social beliefs and musical styles in the African American society. (Betty, Liz and Bob Fisher have been friends for over 35 years.)
Artistic expression, her and others, have always been important to Betty. She was a singer and songwriter for many years. She compiled and released her best songs for her ninetieth birthday. Some of the titles are: Little Boy Black; Mississippi Summer Freedom; Each of Me. Ebony the Night (c) 1975 was inspired by witnessing the “Birth of Blackness,” at a Black Caucus Conference in Chicago when as she says “I experienced moving into my black identity fully and completely and without apology or regret.” She also appeared in the Vagina Monologues, as one of the characters in a local cast; she was the oldest and one of the most effective.
Betty’s Website and Blog are both excellent sources for her personal wisdom. Her website contains pictures of her life and a video presentation. Her memoir draws extensively on her over ten years of blogs.
Betty introduced President Obama at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, 2015, Washington D.C.
This column was published in Patheos’ Nature Path blog in December, 2015 when Betty Reid Soskin introduced President Obama at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony. The second half of this column includes biographical information about Betty’s fascinating ancestry and the many activities and accomplishments she has achieved.
Betty explains: “Since my great-grandmother, Leontine, lived to be 102, (1846-1948). I was privileged to have actually known my slave ancestor. I was a 27 year-old married woman and mother of two when she died three years after the end of WW II.” She carried a picture of her grandmother in her pocket when she introduced President Obama. It was quite a moment, her standing in front of the White House built by slaves. The President acknowledged the contributions of her grandmother during his comments, genuinely impressed by Betty’s dedication to sharing her life story.
Response to the column from Betty:
“I did read your lovely piece when I reached home, Liz, and found it expressed our friendship and mutual admiration over lo those 30 years. You’ve done great work over time, and I’m so proud to have been a part of that. Life is still unfolding in incredible ways, while the world seems to be disintegrating beneath our feet. You and Bob have been such good friends over time, and it’s clear that you’ve both had an impact on UU life as you pursued Truth.”
A Syndicated Cartoon featuring Betty’s life by Morris Turner, July 2011