It’s no secret that San Francisco is a center of culture whose impact the entire nation. The people who have passed through the bay area throughout the years make up an incredible legacy, one that’s had far-reaching results. Part of that legacy is the native sons and daughters of this city who have gone on to transform the world at large through their passion: whether the arts, technology, or assisting the downtrodden. These are just a few of the remarkable people whose dreams were fostered in the Golden City.
The voice of a nation, Angelou’s poetry comes from a rich artistic life that began as a professional calypso artist in the clubs of San Francisco. During her teenage years, she was San Francisco’s first black female streetcar conductor, a job she took up while attending school on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Before she became America’s foremost poet, Angelou studied dance and drama, with a career in the arts that led her to prominence.
Though he moved across the bay to Oakland at the age of three, this San Francisco-born author found great renown writing about the city of his birth, including an account of the devastating 1906 earthquake for Collier’s Magazine that remains a harrowing but heartfelt lamentation for what was lost in the decimation. Today, he’s best remembered for penning several novels of wilderness survival like Hatchet and Call of the Wild. A state park bearing his name just north of the city ensures his legacy will live in this area forever.
After growing up in the shadow of the Sonoma mountains, it’s not surprising that this native San Franciscan took to the wild later in life, with stunningly beautiful results. Adams’ renowned nature photography is widely considered to have spurred the conservation movement in the United States, thanks to the rugged yet fragile beauty he captured in the wilds of the American west through his camera. A native of the Western Addition neighborhood, Adams and family moved later to Seacliff, where they enjoyed a stunning view of the golden gate that informed his photographic work decades later.
As much as Steve Jobs personifies Silicon Valley, Jerry Garcia does the same for a very different San Francisco culture, the 1960s hippie movement. The music created by the Grateful Dead helped to set in motion the movement that continues to color the city’s streets in countless ways, even decades later. Garcia and “the Dead” remain to this day icons of the Haight-Ashbury counterculture scene of the 1960s. Born in the Excelsior District in 19432, Garcia overcame the loss of his finger as a child to become one of the most influential guitar players who ever lived.
There’s possibly no one that embodied the spirit of Silicon Valley better than Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs. Until his death in 2011, his tireless work propelled technology forward and transformed our everyday lives. Raised in the tumultuous 60s in perhaps the countercultural capital of the world meant young Steve was used to challenging expectations. He brought this attitude to his work creating Apple computers, where the work that began in a Los Altos garage ended up changing the globe.
While best known for starring in films like Lethal Weapon and The Color Purple, native SFer Danny Glover has cemented a legacy with compassionate activism and humanitarian work just as impressive as his many memorable performances in Hollywood. Since his days as a student at San Francisco State University, Glover has spoken up for the rights of the downtrodden while using fame and renown to bring attention to a variety of causes. Today, Glover serves as a UNICEF ambassador and continues to star in film and television roles.