Spirit of Joseph James
ABOUT JOSEPH JAMES
Joseph Henry James was born on October 8, 1910 in Philadelphia to Annie Mellisa Hamming and Joseph E. James. He and his mother lived in Camden New Jersey with his Uncle in 1920, after losing his father at a young age. In 1927, at the age of 17, and with his mother's early passing, James joined the well known Princess Anne Academy Quartet (now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore) and toured up and down the East Coast, performing Negro Spirtuals for large audiences and radio stations. After transferring to Boston University's College of Music, and joining The Mansfield Singers, Joseph James toured all over the United States, Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines. After his college experience singing, Joseph James went on to sing with the Eva Jessye Choir in the original 1935 Boston/New York Production of Porgy and Bess, as well as other acting roles. After traveling west to California and landing roles in plays sponsored by companies like The Federal Theater Project like Run little Chillun in San Francisco, to traveling to Los Angeles in 1939 for a revival of Porgy and Bess as a part of the chorus, and being in the all Black cast of The Swing Makado, Joseph James was in full pursuit of his acting career.
Then, Pearl Harbor happened. Once America entered World War 2, all venues, plays and productions in California were cut short. Joseph James decided to go the the Marinship shipyard to find work to provide for himself and his family. James went to vocational school to become a welder. He was advanced at the skill of welding and became a journeyman (skilled welder) in two months, and was a member of the elite "Flying squadron" of welders who were repsonsible to make sure well crafted ships were made to help win the war. The Marinship shipyard produced 93 ships. While at Marinship, Joseph James, and 1000 Black people, filed a suit in the California Supreme Court against the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers for discirminatory practices in creating auxiliary unions based on race. With the help of Thurgood Marshall, and the community of Joseph James, after the war, he became the first president of the NAACP in San Francisco, and served for a short time before returning to act in over 18 plays, still advocate for unions, and made international trips to places like Brazil. Joseph James died in 2001 at the age of 90.
ACT ONE centers around his formative years singing Negro Spirituals for tuition in college, and traveling on tour to the Jim Crow South with Eva Jessye as the precursor to his move to California. Featuing Marin City's own Davon Smith.
ACT TWO the centerpiece of the experience, focuses on the Marinship shipyard in Sausalito, California, and James' fight against discriminatory union practices with the help of Thurgood Marshall and 1000 Black Shipyard workers.
Featuring Oakland's own Adimu Madyun.
ACT THREE the finale, features Joseph James in his own words from a video captured in his 70's, a retrospect, and a call to action to continue to work for freedom, justice, and equality Featuring Marin city's own Tami Bell