Last year was tempestuous globally to put it mildly, and 2017 promises new sets of unforeseen challenges and opportunities. Reflecting on the recent past on an optimistic note, the last year was a good for the future of a stronger remembrance of the African American past in the United States, even as far west as Los Angeles, California, and globally.
Recently the city of Los Angeles received a grant from the state of California to produce a context statement that identifies places associated with Los Angeles’ citywide, diverse African American history. In Fall 2016 I became a historian subconsultant with the Galvin Preservation Associates Consulting and the City of Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources team to research, write and do public engagement outreach for the African American History Context Statement on the Survey LA (Historic Preservation Survey). My major contribution to this study is in researching and writing the African American history overview context and a timeline from 1850 to 1980. Professionals as well as the general public will use our work in this groundbreaking document to learn about the city’s landscape and its people for many years to come. Those of you in Los Angeles, watch for announcements about public meetings to be held in 2017 to obtain information from the public about historic sites that should be included in the citywide survey.
On a more personal note, in the Spring of 2016 I was awarded a University of Nebraska Press publishing contact for my first solo book with working title Leisure’s Race, Power and Place: The Remembrance of African Americans in the California Dream. This contract came shortly after I earned my PhD in History from University of California, Santa Barbara in December 2015. In this upcoming book I examine the history and the memory of several African American leisure sites in southern California communities during the nation’s Jim Crow era, the agents who shaped them and the people who enjoyed them.
Both of these projects for me and others, set up new opportunities to educate people about why history matters in 2017 and beyond.
About the image (right): This is a panel of a 1920s sales brochure produced by the African American promoters of their rural resort subdivision Eureka Villa (later called Val Verde) located in northern Los Angeles County near the city of Santa Clarita. The promoters and their rhetoric and imagery embodied a progressively modern vision of leisure and land development at the core of the “California Dream” for the African American audience they sought to convince that they needed to buy into this idyllic community. Details of the history of the Eureka Villa/Val Verde project and its agents are featured in my upcoming book. Brochure image courtesy of the Aubrey Provost Collection.