2.5.1 Oakland Fire Department, Engine Co. 22, 1949
African American members of Oakland Fire Department engine company No. 22 [Royal Towns is seated second from left]
These images are of Royal Towns and his fellow firefighters at Engine Company 22. What do you notice about the firefighters? Do their uniforms look similar to or different from what you see firefighters wearing today? How are these firefighters the same and/or different from firefighters today?
Until the early 1950's, the City of Oakland operated a segregated Fire Department, with most of the African American firefighters stationed at Engine 22 in West Oakland, under white officers. The Alameda County Branch of the NAACP decided to bring a lawsuit to end this practice. Ernest Allen Sr. volunteered as plaintiff, and the co-counsels were Clinton White (later to serve as a California Superior Court Judge) and Lionel Wilson (later to serve first as a California Superior Court Judge and afterwards as Mayor of the City of Oakland). The Allen lawsuit lost, but the publicity it generated embarrassed the City of Oakland, and eventually forced the integration of the city's Fire Department.