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Oakland Columnist Wrapping Up Work On First Novel

Oakland Local
July 14, 2011
By Pamela Drake

[NOTE from J. Douglas Allen-Taylor: There are two small, factual errors in this article. I worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1980, not in 1969. And the article should have noted that Berkeley County, South Carolina, was the only Southern county I ever visited that did not have a Confederate statue, not the only Southern county that did not have one. There may be others.]

One local writer, journalist and chronicler of Oakland’s political scene and beyond, has written a novel set in South Carolina in the late 1930s.

Known to many of us simply as Jesse, J. Douglas Allen Taylor is a native Oaklander whose family has deep roots in the Bay Area. I asked him why the book was set in South Carolina.

“Half of my adult life was spent in the South,” he replied.

He first took a job with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1969 and stayed on for two decades. He was a full time Freedom Worker and community organizer in the Movement while writing for an African-American newspaper. During this period he heard the stories of African-Americans who had survived generations of oppression and upheaval in the South.

One day he asked an elderly man where he was from and the man pointed to a nearby lake, “over there,” he said. Taylor asked him what he meant, “was there an island in that lake once upon a time?” The man told him that his home, his neighbors, his town had once existed in the lake’s depths before the area had been flooded. It had taken place during the Works Progress Administration as a rural electrification program, the Santee-Cooper Power Project.

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