Sidney and the Dearing Family
On New Year’s Day in 1924, Julia Davis, a white woman from Canada, purchased a house at 67 Wildwood Avenue in Piedmont, Calif., using her son-in-law’s money. Surrounded on all sides by Oakland, Piedmont had been an island of wealth and racial exclusion since its incorporation in 1907. At that time, Oakland was aggressively trying to annex its adjoining areas. A coalition of writers, artists and wealthy businessmen in the soft hills that would ultimately become Piedmont voted to incorporate their own city as a way to ward off residential density and retain the area’s bucolic environs. By the 1920s, when Davis bought 67 Wildwood, Piedmont had more millionaires per square mile than any other city in the country.
After paying $10,000 for the home, Davis transferred it to her biracial daughter Irene Dearing and her husband, Sidney Dearing, a Black man whose parents had been enslaved in Texas. Racial covenants meant that the Dearings needed a white proxy to purchase the property. Almost immediately after moving in, they became the target of harassment by their neighbors and the nascent local government. The Piedmont police chief — a member of the Ku Klux Klan — had no interest in protecting the Dearings.
An ultimatum was issued by the City Council: The Dearings could accept $8,000 for the property and move out or the city would seize it. Sidney Dearing countered with a price of $15,000 for the value of the home and an additional $10,000 for what he called the surrender of his constitutional rights. The City Council refused his offer.
in Piedmont, California
Located between Wildwood Ave
and Nova Drive
Just five months after the Dearings moved in, 500 people surrounded the home and demanded they leave. On June 4, 1924, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that a bomb “containing enough dynamite to blow up a large part of Piedmont’s residential section” was found underneath a nearby home. Three days later, a headline in The Oakland Tribune read “Dearing Menaced By Third Bomb” — Sidney Dearing had come across a lit fuse on his lawn and stomped it out. The mob, the city and the police ultimately won: Dearing sold the property in February 1925 and moved his family to Oakland. [New York Times, March 10, 2022]
This park is dedicated to Sidney, his wife Irene and their two daughters, Thelma and Sydney. For more information on Sidney Dearing and his family please visit SidneyDearing.com