Piedmont Historical Society's
Response to the Sidney Dearing's story
After a year of silence and many inquires later, they mention Sidney Dearing:
Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, I maintained regular communication with the primary historian at the Piedmont Historical Society, inquiring about our city's history, unrelated to Sidney Dearing. In 2020, I established this website, and the narrative of the Dearings gained increased visibility. Although various articles began featuring Sidney's story, the Piedmont Historical Society curiously refrained from making any comments:
News: Uncovering Dearing: How Piedmont’s first Black homeowner was run out of town, and the lingering effects on the city’s history
By Marta Symkowick | Exedra | September 15, 2020
News: Where We Came From … Where We’re Going
Aya Troyer, Zenobia Pellissier Lloyd and Malia Lee | October 21, 2020
News: After Dearing: Residential segregation and the ongoing effects on Piedmont
Nick Levinson and Marta Symkowick |Exedra | October 27, 2020
News: A ‘full, layered, textured’ story: Being Black in Piedmont today
Nick Levinson and Marta Symkowick | Exedra | December 22, 2020
News: Piedmont residents wrestle with how to add more housing to exclusive enclave
Sarah Ravani | San Francisco Chronicle | May 20, 2021
On 5/24/2021, I reached out to the historical chair, hopeful that she would be willing to break the society's silence and engage in a conversation about Sidney Dearing and his family's experiences in Piedmont. Unfortunately, I have not received a response from her. Despite various attempts on behalf of others to arrange a meeting and discuss Sidney, there has been no communication. It's disheartening that a society advocating for the learning of our town's history has not been more proactive and appreciative of the increased interest in both the positive and negative aspects of our town's history.
Historical Society's article in the Exedra on 7/13/2021:
And yet, Dearing is not mentioned in the Piedmont Historical Society’s newsletters, articles, and website. Until the actions of the summer of 2020 and the renewed interest in historic racism, I had not heard of Sidney Dearing. When reporters for the Exedra contacted me in June asking for information on Dearing, I gave them my “go-to” resources and then discovered for myself his shocking story. The newspapers.com website allows members to search newspaper articles throughout the country. In California, newspapers from Sacramento to Whittier published articles on Dearing, and the Oakland Tribune provided a wealth of material. Bennett has included these clippings and more on her website.
Sidney and his family's story was available the whole time, it was just not retold.
On the Historical Society's new Sidney Dearing page (September 2021), named "__trashed.html", it mentions Piedmont's local newspaper printing quite a few articles regarding Sidney and his treatment in Piedmont:
When Piedmont residents discovered that Sidney was Black, they wanted him to leave Piedmont. On March 14, 1924, the Piedmont Weekly News reported that residents protested to the Piedmont City Council the sale of the house to colored. The original deed for the house at 67 Wildwood Avenue had a clause prohibiting the sale to “any other than whites,” but the clause was said to have expired in 1923. The City Council was powerless to act and replied that it was a neighborhood matter. The Council suggested that the residents cooperate to buy Dearing out. Dearing soon began receiving letters demanding that he either sell or move away and rent his house to white people. Dearing refused.
Residents continued to demand that Dearing sell, and Dearing continued to refuse to sell. Handbills were posted around town calling for a meeting. The Piedmont Weekly News reported the gathering. On May 6, at 8 pm, a crowd of 500 Piedmont residents gathered in front of Dearing’s house and demanded that he sell his house and leave Piedmont. Dearing agreed to meet in one week to discuss arrangements for the sale of his house, and the crowd dispersed. It was the first time that Dearing had agreed to discuss the sale of his house.
On May 30, the Piedmont Weekly News published Mayor Ellsworth’s statement: “The question of building a street at this point has been considered for some time…The council has received many suggestions during the past two years that a street be built at this point.”
While the city prepared its condemnation case against Sidney Dearing, the Piedmont Weekly News reported on June 13, that Dearing moved his entire family back into his home at 67 Wildwood. In addition to his wife Irene and their two small children, Irene’s mother Julia Davis also moved into the house. Mrs. Davis was the original purchaser of the house. When interviewed, Mrs. Davis stated, “Mr. Dearing will not move until he gets his price… we are all living here again.”
On August 15, the Piedmont Weekly News reported that the City of Piedmont prevailed in the first hearing against Sidney Dearing. Attorney Drake filed three objections to the complaint, and Judge John D. Murphy overruled each. Piedmont City Attorney Richardson asked for a September 15 trial date.