The Color of Power: Racial Coalitions and Political Power in Oakland is a book by Frédérick Douzet about contemporary political coalitions in Oakland and how they've changed since the 60s. In short, the book describes Oakland's transition from a city where political faultlines ran between the black/progressive and white/business communities to the current situation where multicultural coalitions are the key to governance. This book is available at the Oakland History Room at the Main Branch of the Oakland Public Library.

When using this book as a reference in Oakland Wiki entries, please use the following format: "Douzet, Frédérick. The Color of Power: Racial Coalitions and Political Power in Oakland. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press. 2012. (Originally published in French in 2007, English edition released in 2012)"

Pages that include references from this book

Notes from book

(notes by mk30)

According to Browning (Racial Politics in American Cities), Oakland had high incorporation measured by the establishment of a civilian review police board, the appointment of minority members to city boards and commissions, provisions for minority shares of city contracts, and minority employment in city government. (4)

lionel wilson's election in april 77 was the start of a major shift that contributed to white flight to nearby suburbs. Dev in those suburbs was booming thanks to federal subsidies (secured mortgages and infrastructure building – ex: grove shafter freeway and caldecott tunnel). Began after WWII. (15)

Black population grew until 1990 (42.8%) then began to decline (27% in 2010) (15-16)

19% of the population, all in the flatlands, under the poverty line in 2000. (16)

pop grew b/w 1980 and 1990 for first time since WWII, almost exclusively because of immigrants of Asian and Hispanic origin. (16)

the classic image of the city of oakland perceived by its residents, largely backed by statistical study, is that of a city cut in two by MacArthur Freeway (I-580). (16)

Oakland thus contains both a large low-income population and a substantion high-income population; unlike other US cities, some of Oakland's suburbs are within city limits. The residents of those neighborhoods have integrated this image to the point where they often use hten ameo f their neighborhood rather than their city to designate their place of residence. Many speak of Rockridge or Montclair, two neighborhoods of North Oakland, as though they were independent cities, a way of enhancing the status of their residence with the positive image of a rich and peaceable neighborhood that obliterates the tarnished image beset by difficulties of the City of Oakland, seen negatively from the outside. (17)

American Babylon: the post-war period in oakland is shaped by three key elements: “the emergence, flowering, and retreat under considerble opposition, of the century's major struggle for racial equality; the articulation of the New Deal welfare state into the fabric of urban life, economy, and politics; and a thirty-year suburban economic boom linked to a white middle-class-centered federal urban policy.”(328 in american babylon)

EDA program started in spring 1966. in 1968, municipal budget was $57.9mn, fed aid was 95.5mn. Incl. Defense budget expenditures, total federal aid was ~$487.4 mn (38)

EDA and model cities were two key federal programs. (38)

Oak was majority black by 1970. between 1950 and 1960, the black population increased by 70% while overall population increased by 4%. (38)

44-45: In the 1960s, the city council and manager were so conservative and dominated by the Knowland machine that local black political leaders (such as C.L. Dellums, A. Philip Randolph, & D.G. Gibson) focused their efforts on state and national strategies. They focused much less on city politics up to the early 1960s. The infusion of federal aid was one of the things that encouraged a shift to a local political strategy – now that there was the potential for resources to be spent actually developing the local community, it's understandable that it became urgent to ensure that the resource allocation was democratic, participatory, and equitable.

1964 Economic Opportunity Act which put forth the development of community action programs with “maximum feasible participation of residents of the areas and members of the groups served.” Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, 88th Cong. 2Nd Sess., Section 202 (a)(3). The EDA was set up to administer the programs stipulated in the act with a specific focus on investments and public works to assist in employment (especially for minorities).

City council did not appreciate federal interference in the city, set up the Oakland Economic Development Council to administer federal funds and retain control over that mechanism of distribution. “Mayor Houlihan converted an advisory committee set up two years earlier, under the Gray Areas program of the Ford Foundation, into a body to receive and administer the large federal subsidies offered to the city to fight poverty, within the framework of the Model Cities program.” (45)

Oakland was the first “model city” chosen for the project. The goal was to see if effective, adequately resourced, federal aid could avoid protests and race riots. The EDA invested $23mn for direct/indirect result of 2,200 jobs. $1.6mn in loans was given to companies to create jobs as well.

46: The EDA wanted to act quickly to prove that it could have a rapid impact, and so it did not coordinate with other agencies & set very aggressive timetables for businesses to apply for the program (applications had to be submitted in Feb. 1966 and accepted in May 1966 so that the money had to be spent by June 30th) . In the end, applicants were the Port of Oakland (2 specific projects at the port got $$: were an airport hangar (who?), marine terminal (who?) ($10mn each)), and the City. Rest of the $$ went to the city and port for administration. Loans went to local businesses Bennie's Candies, Rainbow Car Wash, and Colombo Bakeries. These businesses didn't do a great job creating their promised jobs. 2 later projects also failed. The only successful

Port was tied up in changing plans, disagreements over advancing funds & how the project was actually going to be done (which resulted in changing the plans) and the long time it took to constant reapproval of changing plans. The hangar was stalled for months and then when the architectural plan was submitted, it included a lot of cost overruns. & changes. It kept getting delayed. Final plans were only approved in 1970 and the project only got green light the following year. But the terminal was almost completed by 1970.

The EDA also did not require businesses to create long-term jobs, it only required them to include in their proposal their plans for creating jobs (the kind of jobs they would create, etc.), and how they would recruit minority applicants.

49-50: In 1964, Mayor Houlihan "created the Oakland Economic Development Council, the poverty board to receive and administer community assistance funds. In practice, that meant recasting the citizens advisory committee set up by the Ford Foundation under its Gray Areas Programs. At first, the new program was administered by the mayor and the 25 members of the ex-OEDC appointed by the mayor. In order to comply with the requirements of the Office of Economic Opportunity, the mayor also had to set up advisory committees with minority representation in poor neighborhoods, called Target Area Advisory Committees (TAAC). In 1965, under pressure from black neighborhoods, Mayor Houlihan appointed eight additional members to represent minorities. But those members were essentially representatives of the middle-class black elite, professionals among whom were attorneys and East Bay Democratic Club members such as Clinton White, Don McCullum, and Lionel Wilson who followed a policy of cooperation rather than confrontation. They soon took over the council in a remarkable coup, after only its second meeting. Wilson was elected chairman and replaced Mayor Houlihan."

  • Q: the TAAC was different from the requirement that redevelopment agencies have citizen boards to represent citizen interests in redevelopment? (In Oakland, the citizen board was OCCUR.) - mk30

50: The city retained control over how federal funds were spent, which meant that the TAAC did not have much influence. TAAC members were not on the executive committee of the OEDC. Also covers West Oakland Planning Council.





The Color of Power: Racial Coalitions and Political Power in Oakland

Author Frédérick Douzet

Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press.



(Originally published in French in 2007, English edition released in 2012)

Physical Info WorldCat entry
ISBN 9780813932811 0813932815 9780813932842 081393284X
Access: Print At Oakland Public Library
Access: Online No full text available.