CALIFORNIA’S HISTORICALLY BLACK LANDMARKS
-African American Firefighters Museum: 1401 South Central Ave, Los Angeles CA 90021. The African American Fire Fighter Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, conserving and sharing the heritage of African American firefighters. The Museum is housed at old Fire Station 30. This station, which was one of two segregated fire stations in Los Angeles, between 1924 and 1955, was established in 1913, to serve the Central Ave community. The Museum has been designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument 289, and is the recipient of the Los Angeles Conservancy's 1999 preservation Award.
-Beckwourth Pass: California Highway 70, east of the 395 junction, North of lake Tahoe.
-James Beckwourth's Cabin: Rocky Point Road, South of California Interstate 70. James Beckwourth was a liberated slave. He was a frontiersman, trader, Chief of the Crow tribe. He was also the only Black California frontiersman to leave a written record of his life. In the Spring of 1850 he discovered what is now known as the Beckwourth Pass. He immediately set about establishing a trail to Maryville, and in the Summer of 1851, he led the first wagon train of settlers along the trail into Maryville.
-Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park: Eight Miles east of Earlimart, California 43 between Fresno and Bakersfield. Allensworth, California's only planned Black community was established in the San Joaquin Valley in 1908. Named for the best known of its founders, it flourished for only a few years. Allensworth continued as a settlement, and its core area, now designated a State Historic Park, and commemorates the Pioneer community.
-California Afro-American Museum: 600 State Drive, Exposition Park. Located adjacent to the University Park Campus in Exposition Park, this Museum showcases Black artistic talent and history.
-Dunbar Hotel: 4225 South Central Avenue, Los Angeles. Originally the Hotel Somerville, this was the most prestigious Black hotel in Los Angeles during the 1950's. Some famous names that signed the guest register include Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, and W.E.B. Dubois. Dunbar Hotel was founded by Dr. John Alexander Somerville, a Black alumnus of the USC School of Dentistry for whom it was originally named.
-Leimert Park Village: Crenshaw Boulevard and Vernon Avenue. Developed by Walter H. "Tim" Leimert (for whom it is named) beginning in 1928 and designed by the Olmsted brothers, Leimert Park was one of the first comprehensively planned communities in Southern California designed for low- and middle-income families, and was considered a model of urban planning for its time: automobile traffic near schools and churches was minimized, utility wires were buried or hidden from view in alleys, and densely planted trees lined its streets. Initially white-dominated, (known for the Black Dahlia murder) Leimert Park and the neighboring Crenshaw District eventually became one of the largest Black middle class neighborhoods in the United States, and is now considered part of South Los Angeles. Leimert Park is considered the center of the African-American arts scene in Los Angeles, with flourishing blues and jazz clubs; as well as venues for Hip Hop and numerous dramatic performances and poetry readings. The park at the district's center, adjoined by shops and a theater, is a popular place for performances and gatherings. -St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church: 2131 Eighth Street, Sacramento. Founded in 1850, this church holds the distinction of being the first African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the first African-American religious congregation established on the Pacific Coast.
-San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society Museum: Building C, San Francisco, CA 94123 in Fort Mason. It is one of several small museums in the historic Fort Mason complex. The society aims to promote and preserve the history and culture of African-American artists, particularly from the Bay Area.
-Pio Pico State Historic Park: 6003 Pioneer Boulevard, Whittier. Pio Pico Mansion reflects the type of home and lifestyle that wealthy Southern Californians built in the 1800's. At one point, it was more than twice its current size and was surrounded by gardens with rare and imported flowering plants.
-Pico House (Hotel): El Pueblo De Los Angeles, 400 block of Main St. Los Angeles. Owned by Pio Pico, it was Los Angeles first major hotel and is currently being restored by the City of Los Angeles.
-Original Building of the University of Southern California: Alumni House, University of Southern California, Childs Way. Not a Black site, but USC's own State Historic Landmark. Dedicated on September 4th, 1880, this building has been in continuous use for educational purposes since its doors opened to students on October 6, 1880. The building is named Widney Hall Alumni house for Judge Robert W. Widney, one of the University's founders.
-Second Baptist Church: 2412 Griffith Avenue; Los Angeles 90011 (on the corner of 24th Street). Second Baptist Church was born in the minds and hearts of early African-American Baptists in Los Angeles who felt the need to have their own church where the free expression of worship in the black idiom could flow uninhibited. On May 13, 1885, the first African-American Baptist Church in Southern California was organized and became the Second Baptist Church, Los Angeles. The church's current building was designed by Paul R. Williams (USC Alum), and the excavators, cement masons, carpenters, and brick masons were all black owned businesses. Second Baptist Church is now considered a historical landmark. Visit www.sbcla.org
LOS ANGELES' BLACK HISTORY
Black people have had a bitter-sweet relationship with Los Angeles that firmly binds the history of the Black, with the history of the place. These ties go back way before the cyclical uprisings that have tended to dominate the recent Black history of LA. There were people of African descent leaving their mark on this soil long before the Rodney King riots of 1992,long before the Watts uprising of 1965. The soil of Los Angeles had given rise to many dynamic Black sons and daughters, and seen the fall of countless others ages before it fueled the creative fury of Tupac, and soaked up the blood of Biggie Smalls.
BLACK PEOPLE AND THE FOUNDING OF LOS ANGELES
There were Black people here back in the days of Cortez, Balboa, and Columbus. These were Afro-Spaniards, a people conceived of early slavery under the Spanish and Portuguese. They were converted to Christianity, and spoke Spanish. In fact, anthropologists and historians cite the first Christian burial in California to be that of a Black man, Ignacio Ramirez in 1771.
Between 1500 and 1700, African-Spaniards and mixed race Blacks served in Spanish expeditionary forces as soldiers and mule drivers. Many were forced into service against Native American tribes in the quest to expand the Spanish empire. In 1790, the population of Baja California was estimated to number roughly 800-900 Spanish speaking persons, roughly one-fourth of whom were of African descent. With the move of Spanish settlers into coastal California came a wide variety of North African influences. The Moorish saddle was later adapted as the Texas saddle, a Moorish breed of horse gave rise to the "mustang", and longhorn cattle occupied California and quickly spread to other parts of the United States. The early foundation of the city of Los Angeles was the Pueblo of Los Angeles, whose approximate geographical area was a wide area north of Baja. The Pueblo was founded in 1781 by twelve families, consisting of forty-six persons. Of these, twenty eight were Afro-Spanish.
INFLUENTIAL BLACKS IN EARLY LOS ANGELES
Influential Afro-Spaniards played an early and key role in the establishment and development of Los Angeles. Among these were Francisco Reges, the first rancher in the San Fernando valley and the first mayor of Los Angeles between 1793 and 1795. Jose Bartolome Tapia, a soldier, owned 'Rancho Malibu'. His son Tirbucio Tapia, also a soldier, engaged in business and politics serving as mayor of Los Angeles at three different points and as a member of the provincial legislature. He was also the proprietor of Rancho Cucamonga.
Probably the most famous family of the era was the Pico family who now lend their name to Pico Boulevard. Pio Pico whose ancestry was African, European, Mexican and Indian, was the last governor of Mexican rule when the forces of the United States overran the province in 1846. His brother Andres Pico was third in command of the Mexican forces resisting the United States conquest of California. Pio Pico's ranch home now houses a museum in Whittier at Pio Pico State Historical Park.
BLACK WOMEN IN EARLY LOS ANGELES
Two women that stand out are Mary Ellen Pleasant, and Biddy Mason. Biddy Mason won freedom from slavery, worked as a nurse/midwife, and then became a successful entrepreneur and a generous contributor to social causes. She provided food and shelter to the poor of all races, and often visited inmates in jail. In 1872 she and her son-in-law, Charles Owens, founded and financed the Los Angeles branch of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, LA's first Black church.
Thursday, November 16, 1989, was declared Biddy Mason Day and a memorial of her achievements was unveiled at the Broadway Spring center, located between Spring Street and Broadway at Third Street. Mary Pleasant was a slave born on a Georgia cotton plantation who was sold for about $600 to a planter who sent her to Boston to be educated. In Boston she married Alex Smith, a Black abolitionist who left Mary a substantial estate upon his death, and which he requested be used to liberate slaves. Mary moved to California and opened a boardinghouse. It is said that Mary financially assisted John Brown for the raid on Harper's Ferry. Mary later served as a financial adviser to White gentry in San Francisco; most of her inheritance spent to free slaves and providing low interest loans to Blacks in southern California. In the 1850's, the Black community of California and Los Angeles attempted to regain rights of land and property lost when the United States gained control of the region. SOURCE: SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, 1975. BLACKS IN THE WESTWARD MOVEMENT.