Topsy-Elvord, Doris

First African American woman on Long Beach City Council


Multimedia

5969.1_T01_online.mp3

Transcript

Abstract

An oral history with Doris Topsy-Elvord, the first African American woman to serve on the Long Beach City Council and the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. This interview was conducted for the Women, Politics, and Activism Since Suffrage Oral History Project for California State University, Fullerton’s Center for Oral and Public History. The purpose of this interview was to gather information regarding Topsy-Elvord’s involvement in local politics. Specifically, this interview discusses her childhood in Vicksburg, Mississippi; moving to Long Beach, California, with her mother in the 1940s and working for the Schneider family; her Catholic upbringing, attending Catholic school, being the only black student but making many friends; her parent’s restaurant, The Royal Palm Buffet, in Long Beach that welcomed everyone in the community; attending UCLA and becoming friends with Carol Burnett; childhood aspirations, gender messages (which she ignored), and how she was geared toward inclusion from a young age; post-college years working at the California Youth Authority and with Sybil Brand at the Women’s County Jail; memories of the Civil Rights Movement; balancing work and being the mother of three sons; working as a probation officer in Los Angeles County; how she helped probationers acquire jobs; her post-retirement decision to run for Long Beach City Council, representing the Sixth District; developing a program called Midnight Basketball to improve community relations in her district; her pride in the annual Long Beach Martin Luther King parade; memories of her victory in a close election; working with male colleagues while on the council; her relationship with former Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill; proud accomplishments while serving on council, including historic preservation for the McBride House and helping to write the book, The Heritage of African Americans in Long Beach; what it takes to be an effective councilmember; and finally, advice she gives for those wanting to be involved.

Images

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Description> Doris Topsy-Elvord, 2017.
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Description> Doris Topsy-Elvord during her oral history interview, 2017.
File Name 5969_P21.JPG
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Description> Doris Topsy-Elvord with the interviewer, 2017.

Multimedia

5969.2_T01_online.mp3

Transcript

Metadata

Abstract

A second session oral history with Doris Topsy-Elvord, the first African American woman to serve on the Long Beach City Council and the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. This interview was conducted for the Women, Politics, and Activism Since Suffrage Oral History Project for California State University, Fullerton’s Center for Oral and Public History. The purpose of this interview was to gather information regarding Topsy-Elvord’s involvement in local politics. Specifically, this interview discusses a Long Beach visit from President Bill Clinton while she served on city council; an early interaction with then-Senator Barak Obama regarding the high numbers of imprisoned black men; her groundbreaking idea on how to lower the recidivism rate for black parolees and how Obama supported her after he became president; her service on the Long Beach Harbor Commission from 2003-2008, appointed by Mayor Beverly O’Neill; how she implemented a program for more women contractors at the port, called Small Business Enterprise; the challenges of being a woman on the Harbor Commission; development of the Green Port Policy; her involvement in the Long Beach African American Heritage Society; the annual Martin Luther King Parade in Long Beach; her leadership style; raising three sons; the differences in how men and women lead; how she struggles with identifying as a feminist; Election 2016 and her opinion on current politics; advice to those wanting to get involved; how she was a mother to many, not just her three sons; the term servant leader and how she defines it; what she is most proud of in her life; describes her friendship with Beverly O’Neill and how her father helped recovering alcoholics; and finally, mentions other important activist women in Long Beach.

Images

File Name 5969_P22.JPG
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Description> Doris Topsy-Elvord with videographer, Brian Mashburn, 2017.