1999 Jack Green Civil Liberties Award Honoree
Platt Williams was 21 when he came to Santa Rosa from Louisiana to attend Santa Rosa Junior College in 1949. He was the second African-American to attend the school. When he arrived, he found a community that differs greatly from what we see today. At the time, Santa Rosa only had five African American families, Petaluma one, and Healdsburg one. As the 50’s progressed and more black families moved to Sonoma County, they were forced to live in the South Park area of Santa Rosa or in the country.
Unable to find any hotel or motel that would allow friends or relatives visiting him to stay due to their color, Platt, Gilbert Gray and Ann Gray Byrd formed the Sonoma County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1954. The chapter was formed for the purpose of “opening doors.” Platt Williams was its first president.
To insure that the NAACP would not be an all black organization, but one that would reflect the community, Williams recruited over 300 charter members, including every member of the Santa Rosa City Council and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
“We formed the chapter on a Sunday and issued a press release that was published by the Press Democrat on Monday. On Tuesday, the motels started to allow blacks to stay.” Williams remembers.