The oldest park ranger in the nation is a Black woman.
Ranger Betty Reid Soskin turned 100 on September 22. She currently serves at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, where she offers physical and virtual programming to guests.
The part is dedicated to preserving the history of “the people who worked in the defense industry and other home front jobs, home front activities, daily life, and social changes accelerated by the changing home front culture.” Not all of those people were subject to the same experiences and Soskin has repeatedly used her voice to tell the stories of Black people who faced discrimination and racism.
She became an author when she dared to tell her own story in Sign My Name to Freedom: A Memoir of a Pioneering Life in 2018.
Soskin has reportedly lived a life of service.
According to the National Park Service, Soskin grew up in a “Cajun-Creole, African American family,” and migrated with them to California after a natural disaster in 1927 forced their relocation. As a California resident, she held several positions that aided the state.
She was a file clerk who “worked in a segregated Union hall,” during the second World War, and is a former “Berkeley city council member,” who aided constituents in West Contra Costa County. Her efforts resulted in her being named “Woman of the Year” by the California State Legislature in 1995. On September 21, a public middle school in the state’s East Bay School district was renamed The Betty Reid Soskin Middle School in her honor.
She was present as a special guest at the grand opening ceremony of the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. She has also been honored in a number of news stories and was issued a presidential commemorative coin at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony by President Barack Obama in 2015.