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The city of Hayward is launching the Russell City Reparative Justice Project, an initiative to right the harmful outcomes of Russell City’s redevelopment and incorporation into Hayward, city officials announced.

Hayward is seeking contact information for people who were negatively impacted by the forced relocation of residents in the early 1960s, when the area was annexed and redeveloped to build an industrial park.

Russell City, then and now: An undated street map on the left shows Russell City before it was redeveloped. At right is a Google satellite image of the same area in 2022, populated by light industrial buildings. (Images via YouTube and Google)

Russell City, located 10 miles south of Oakland and in present day-Hayward, existed from 1853 to 1964 as an unincorporated area of Alameda County. The city was an entry point for immigrants into the Bay Area and included large African American, Mexican, and Puerto Rican populations. During the 1960s, when Russell City was annexed by Hayward, many buildings were destroyed by acts of arson.

The Russell City Reparative Justice Project will reach out to residents and descendants to invite them to participate in the project, which will explore and identify ways to set right the historic harm inflicted on Russell City residents during the area’s incorporation into Hayward.

Last year, the Hayward City Council voted unanimously to issue a formal apology for Hayward’s historic role in perpetuating racial discrimination.

Archival images of life and entertainment in the town of Russell City. (Video courtesy of Past and Present Media/YouTube)

The project is being undertaken at the urging of the city’s Community Services Commission and direction of the Hayward City Council. It will be carried out in phases, including the first phase of contacting former residents and descendants, conducting fact-finding and academic research and forming a governing structure for the project team and participants.