Doris Topsy-Elvord
Doris Topsy-Elvord

Doris Topsy-Elvord, the first black woman elected to the Long Beach, California, City Council; the first black female vice mayor of Long Beach; the first African American and third female on the Long Beach Harbor Commission; is  one of the Long Beach legends featured in the book, BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way.

Co-founder of the African American Heritage Society, Long Beach, with Indira Hale Tucker, Topsy-Elvord provides a primary  account of her life and times along with the accounts eleven other Long Beach legends in BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way. Other Long Beach legends in the book are:  Wilma Powell, Vera Mulkey, Carrie Bryant, Alta Cooke, Bobbie Smith, Patricia Lofland, Evelyn Knight, Dale Clinton, Maycie Herrington, Autrilla Scott and the late Lillie Mae Wesley, each of whom made a difference in the history of Long Beach, California, and development of  race relations in that city.

The Writing Life is my lifestyle, allowing me to seek out those topics that interest me and also bring healthy social discussion to the table. I welcome healthy discussion because it raises and reveals new perspectives on old issues. When I examine issues of the past, I learn where I stand in the present and how I will be affected in the future. In all of my re-examination of past social issues, I benefit, in that, I am able to understand at a deeper level how to explain the era of the Civil Rights Movement and the effect of Jim Crow on American society without preaching and turning readers away before I am able to reach them.

Reaching people is my goal in this blog, The Writing Life. However, in addition to reaching people, my blogs, online articles and Internet press releases serve another function. These online publications become part of my overall web presence and help in book marketing by attracting attention of search engines, as well as readers interested in my subjects. Web presence created by online publication gives me brand equity and popular recognition, while I am helping others to do the same with their writing.

Alta Cooke, Press Telegram

Alta Cooke, Press-Telegram

You don’t have  to look very far to find interesting subjects for your books and other writing projects. Carolyn Smith Watts and I found a project that has had significant historical implications in the area of race relations in our BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way book and DVD.

Because several of the women in this book are from Texas, the Brazos Valley African American Museum in Bryan, Texas, has requested that the book be placed on display there. Members of the Pioneering Dozen who are from Texas are: Carrie Bryant, from Mexia; Vera Mulkey, from Austin; Wilma Powell, from Waco; and the late Lillie Mae Westley, from Texarkana. These Texas women migrated to Long Beach, California, as small children with their parents or as young women. All have made Long Beach their home and made historical contributions to the city.

Brazos Valley African American Museum

Brazos Valley African American Museum

Historical Society, Long Beach
Historical Society Long Beach

When selecting a writing project like this one, make sure you involve credible personalities who will be supported by the general public, specific target audiences and the media. 

BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way received much local Long Beach attention in that it was installed into the Historical Society, Long Beach, had events covered by local media and was later received by libraries and museums across the nation, like the Brazos Valley African American Museum and the Historical Society, Long Beach.

Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks on Montgomery Bus

In their own way, the African American women in BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way had a similar mission in their lives as Rosa Parks when she sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.

There were many forces at work across the nation during the Civil Rights Movement. For in-depth understanding about the social and political impact of Rosa Parks and her initiation of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the involvement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., please read: Rosa Parks, Montgomery Bus Boycott & Jim Crow .

Topsy-Elvord and other women legends of Southern California before and  during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s shattered racial tradition in Long Beach in the same way as Rosa Parks shattered Jim Crow in the Deep South. The Southern California movement did not garner national media attention because their actions were not in the Deep Jim Crow South, where civil rights action was concentrated. The concentration in the Jim Crow south and not Jim Crow California was because the laws regarding race in the Jim Crow south were so blatantly written that challenging them presented a clearer path to victory over U.S. racial segregation for Thurgood Marshall and the team of lawyers in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

However, the efforts of these courageous women like Doris Topsy Elvord and others changed Long Beach and the rest of California. For a more complete look at the story of Doris Topsy-Elvord and the other living legends of Long Beach read: Race Relations in America and Southern California  – Twelve African American women, featured in historical profiles, BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way, made a difference in the history of race relations in Long Beach, California, the same way Rosa Parks changed the Jim Crow South.

Long Beach, California, Legends

(left-right, rear) Evelyn Knight, Patricia Lofland, Bobbie Smith, Alta Cooke,  Carrie Bryant, Vera Mulkey, Wilma Powell, and Doris Topsy-Elvord; (seated left-right) Autrilla Scott, Maycie Herrington, Dale Clinton and Lillie Mae Wesley (not present)

Race Relations in America and Southern California includes text, photographs and videos covering race and civil rights issues such as the Supreme Court rulings in Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. the Board of Education, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the history of Jim Crow laws, black codes, segregation in Hollywood films and entertainment, reverse discrimination in education and lynching in the Deep South. 

Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's by Sunny Nash

Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's by Sunny Nash

Sunny Nash is the author of  Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s (Texas A&M University Press), chosen by the Association of American University Presses as one of its essential books for understanding race relations in the United States. The award-winning author is listed in the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies by the Schomburg Center in New York and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida.

Related Articles by Sunny Nash

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, affected race relations in America and early Hollywood, in that, studios had to change with the new racial climate that had relegated black actors to servants’ roles and mirrored pre-civil rights America.
Rosa Parks challenged Jim Crow laws igniting the Montgomery Bus Boycott when she refused to give up her seat to another bus rider.
Rosa Parks started the Montgomery Bus Boycott to free Alabama citizens of segregated bus seating and to show the nation how to overcome the tragedy that slavery left behind. Angela Bassett becomes Rosa Parks in her portrayal of the legendary civil rights heroine.

© 2011 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. 

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