Oakland, CA—May 02, 2017
Mills College will award an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree to Betty Reid Soskin, a tireless, outspoken and articulate voice dedicated to remembering discrimination and segregation of African Americans who worked in Richmond, California shipyards during World War II.
The Mills College Board of Trustees will confer the degree upon Soskin during the College’s 129th Commencement on Saturday May 13.
At 95, Soskin is a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond and the oldest park ranger in the National Parks system. The granddaughter of a freed slave, Soskin worked as a file clerk in a segregated, all-black workplace in Richmond during World War II. In the 1960s she was a political activist and songwriter working for social justice. Later she founded a blues and jazz record store in Berkeley with her husband that is still in business.
Soskin was involved in the planning stages of the Richmond historical park before it opened in 2000 and championed the concept to recognize the park as a place of segregation and discrimination among African Americans who helped build 747 ships in three years.
“I hope we can use these national parks to go back and revisit the past we never processed,” Soskin told television talk show host Tavis Smiley in 2016. “I put the African American perspective into a half hour talk. Each time I do a program, I walk out of there high.”