FAMILY PHOTO The Edwards family in Marinwood for their parents 50th wedding anniversary, in 2010. Top row, Janine Granthan, Ron Edwards, and Reuben Edwards; seated, Virginia and William Edwards.

We all grew up with the history of slavery taught to us in school. I, like most who attended California schools, learned that California was a free state. But I have since learned that there were slave owners and 14 slaves living just outside Healdsburg in 1857.

We learned about the emancipation and freeing of slaves and the turbulent Jim Crow era. We learned how 200,000 African Americans contributed to World War I, many as laborers unloading supplies from ships in Europe. 

The contribution of African Americans continued and expanded into America’s involvement in World War II. Many African Americans in the South were recruited to come to the Bay Area to work in the ship and ammunition yards. 

Many settled in Marin County in temporary housing. Originally the plan was for three years of shipbuilding. But most wanted to stay, and the temporary housing became what is now Marin City.

I was born in Richmond, Virginia, to Virginia Edwards, teacher and daughter of a woman who picked cotton and cleaned homes to put her and her brother through college. My father, William Edwards, was a Richmond native, postal worker and college student. When my father was a high school student, part of the curriculum was to learn how to pass a test to be able to vote.

My dad wanted to further his education, but African Americans were not allowed to attend Virginia’s higher education colleges to get advanced degrees. To keep African Americans out of these colleges, the state paid African Americans to go anywhere else to get their education, rather than have them attend in-state segregated schools. 

My dad found an urban planning program at the University of Washington. We packed up, and our family moved to Seattle. Mom found a job teaching as my dad attended the university.

In 1968, my dad, upon graduating from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in urban planning, got a job in San Francisco working for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. We then moved to Marinwood in Marin County. 

My mom had secured a teaching job in Sausalito at Bayside Elementary School. She was only the second African American teacher hired in Marin County. Shirley Hasley was the first, hired in 1965. 

We were one of four Black families in Marinwood at the time. As a nine year old, I was not aware of the transition and what it meant growing up in a (predominantly) white area.

My parents had “The Talk” with me and my brother at this point. We were told we would be held accountable for not only ourselves and our families but for ALL African Americans by what we did or how we acted. They said we needed to be model citizens and follow the law, and if anyone around was doing something suspicious we should head home.

This all sounded strange to me, as I was just a kid. The talk guided and protected my brother and me well.

The Real World

After graduating from high school and attending college, I became a stepfather living in Novato with two wonderful children who are white. One day, my stepson forgot his lunch, and I was taking it to him at school. 

I went into the office and chatted with the principal, who was the mother of one of my best childhood friends. I left my stepson’s lunch and was off to work. I passed a police car that at once turned around and pulled me over. I was arrested for an alleged strong-arm robbery.

As I stepped out of my car, I heard the phrase “a Black male” come over the officer’s radio. I knew things were not going to go well. Even though the principal at the school said I was just there, it took all day for me to be released. 

In 1993, I met my wife and moved to Healdsburg. She had been here for many years and was friends with many legacy families. I was welcomed with open arms, and we started our catering business. I have enjoyed this city and call it home.

As good as my relationship with Healdsburg has been, I know this is not true for all African Americans who come here. As a member of the City Council, I have learned more about the deep history of Healdsburg. While there were some ups and downs with regards to African Americans, there is still a positive history.

I hope to move our conversation and policy on DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) to be more than just words. My life experience and background help me along with my other council members to improve our city’s relationships with all minorities and be the best we can.

The important thing to me is looking at where we are now with Black History Month 2024. We have come a long way, but our story is not something in the distant past. We have a broad range of African Americans and other minorities that call Healdsburg home. From chefs like myself to those in the business world to even the first African American to walk in space.

It continues to be a welcoming town with a wide range of people who are proud to call Healdsburg home.

Ron Edwards was elected to a two-year term to the Healdsburg City Council in 2022. He is running for a four-year term in 2024. 

Previous articleID on Jane Doe’s Body, Found Near Healdsburg
Next articleCorazón Finds New CEO In-House


  1. A good article by Ron Edwards. We all have our stories. My Irish ancestors were serfs if not slaves back in Ireland. All of our families struggled. The police, colleges, and other institutions have been bigoted towards many ethnic groups in the past.
    We all agree that this is wrong.
    Today Asians and Europeans say that they are being prejudiced against in college admissions.
    Race, the idea of race, is a mythical ideology invented by the rich WASP eugenicists in the 1800s. Charles Darwin’s father was a eugenicist. Hence the theory of evolution. The idea of different races is evil.
    We are all of one race, the human race.
    We are all brothers and sisters only here for a short while.

    • Please sign me up for the newsletter - Yes
  2. Yes, this comment is spot on. We are all members of the human race. The idea that we can be–or should be–classified and segregated by skin color is abhorrent. Jews have for millennia been rejected because of both their religion and their supposed ethnicity. The calls for the slaughter of Jews is now heard daily on college campuses and in rallies in both the U.S. and Europe. It seems the world has never learned from history.

    • Please sign me up for the newsletter - Yes


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here