Remembering 7th Street: Virtual Oakland Jazz and Blues

The UC Berkeley Journalism School and Architecture Department have announced an interesting project in online history.  From their website:

7th Street is a project of UC Berkeley’s Journalism School and
Architecture Department to re-create West Oakland in the 1940s and ’50s
when it was a thriving community teeming with blues and jazz clubs.

The virtual world video game takes you back in time to
post-World-War-II West Oakland, when the area was bustling with
shipyard workers and sailors, musicians and locals meeting up at the
soda fountains and soul food restaurants, shops and other businesses
that lined 7th Street.

Come dusk, music poured from the nightclubs out into the street. You
might catch a performance by one of the big names, Lowell Fulson,
Saunders King, Sugar Pie DeSanto or Ivory Joe Hunter, who played in
this West Coast mecca for the blues.

Today, little trace remains of this rich history. The once thriving
businesses are mostly empty storefronts now. The blues and jazz clubs
have given way to a sprawling postal facility and an elevated BART
train that runs through the heart of 7th Street.

Now you can explore the neighborhood as it once was and help bring
7th Street back to life. Simply log into the game and adopt an avatar –
a musician hungry for a break – and soak up the lost music and culture
of West Oakland.

You’ll cut a record with local producer Bob Geddins and convince a
train porter to take your record cross-country. You’ll get your music
career financed by a notorious local businessman and finally perform
your music at the premier 7th Street club – Slim Jenkins’ Place

For background on the Oakland jazz and blues scene see: California Soul: Music of African Americans in the West.

For additional historical background on Oakland during the 20th century see Chris Rhomberg’s No There There: Race, Class and Political Community in Oakland.

Thanks to Peter Brantley for this one.

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