John and Vada Sommerville—Civil Rights Dynamic Duo

Posted by Paul Rawlins on February 1, 2013 in Site

Born in Jamaica, John Somerville got his first taste of Jim Crowe-era discrimination the day he got off a ship in San Francisco in 1902 and couldn’t find a decent room or meal.

He didn’t like it.


John and Vada Sommerville from the California, African American Who’s Who, 1948, database.

This Who’s Who bio explains how John and his wife, Vada, spent the rest of their lives fighting back: becoming the first black man and woman to graduate from USC’s dental school, seeing the local NAACP branch organized in their home—even opening their own hotel.

You can learn more about finding your own civil rights warriors at

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