Successes in Recognition of African American History and Protection of Historic Sites In the City of the Angels and Beyond

Last year was tempestuous globally to put it mildly, and 2017 has presented 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. Survey LA, Angels Walk LA and I have projects underway that recognized and celebrate African heritage of Southern California for present and future generations.

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.

PHOTO TAKEN 11–29–85: James and Carolyn Shifflett, in front of their 11 room home at 2214 w. 20th. St. in LA. The Shiffletts were the first blacks to move to the area in 1947. Photo/Art by:Jayne Kamin–Oncea.

In Fall 2016 I became a historian sub-consultant 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 SurveyLA (Historic Preservation Survey). My major contribution to this study is in researching and writing the African American history overview context and a timeline from the nineteenth century 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.

In 2017, I have been researching and writing (with journalist Martha Groves) the Angels Walk self-guided walking and public transportation heritage trail (street markers and guidebook texts) that commemorates the history, architecture and culture of the old Central Avenue hub of African American life in Los Angeles during the Jim Crow era (1900s to 1965). Since 1996, Angels Walk LA has been creating heritage trails designed to encourage pedestrians to discover and explore Los Angeles by connecting directly with major transit and rail lines. Over the next year Angels Walk LA will introduce trails in Liemert Park, Highland Park and Boyle Heights, as well as in the Central Avenue District. Groves and I will also contribute to our project’s marketing effort. In the coming months, stay tuned for updates and announcements about the stanchions installations on Central Avenue and the guidebook availability.

On a more personal note, I was awarded a University of Nevbrochure1920backsectionebraska Press publishing contact for my first solo book with working title Leisure’s Race, Power and Place in Los Angeles and California Dreams in the Jim Crow Era, 1900-1960s. 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.

All 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.

Share this: