Dorothea Lange, Shipyard housing in Richmond, California, n.d.; courtesy the Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California. Many shipyard workers lived in Richmond Maritime Commission Housing as the city's population skyrocketed from 20,000 to 100,000 when workers migrated West.
Production and Diversity in the Shipyards
At Richmond's Kaiser Shipyards, the majority of jobs were filled by African Americans as well as women of all races. However, California was not immune to the racist attitudes that still gripped the nation, and most African Americans were only allowed to perform simple, menial tasks. Still, work at the shipyards was not racially segregated; African American women worked alongside women who were white, Asian, Latino, and American Indian.
The Greatest Westward Migration of African-Americans
Between 1942 and 1945 over 500,000 African Americans migrated west to California. This specific voluntary move represents the greatest westward migration of African Americans of the 20th century. Before the war broke out in 1941, Richmond was a relatively sleepy town of 23,000, including only 370 African American residents. By the war's end more than 100,000 people called Richmond home, nearly 14,000 of whom were African American.