Watch the 1944 launch of the last Liberty Ship on the Pacific at Kaiser shipyards, Oakland; courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration
World War II and the Defense Boom
World War II brought an enormous economic boom to America and to California. Across the United States, new and expanded shipyards and defense plants seemed to emerge overnight to support the war effort. California's war production and shipping industries received a number of financially lucrative federal contracts, setting off boomtowns that employed hundreds of thousands of new workers and provided financial opportunities for surrounding communities.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the city of Richmond became home to four of the largest shipyards in the West. Established by American industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, the Kaiser Shipyards employed more than 90,000 people who worked in shifts day and night to build 747 ships over the course of the war. As African Americans from throughout the South moved to California to take part in the war effort at the shipyards, many new communities were established throughout the Bay Area.