The Library will be closed on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in observance of Juneteenth.

Celebrating African American Heritage Month with the LAPL Photo Collection

Christina Rice, Senior Librarian, Photo Collection,
Black and white photo of Malcolm X from the side, standing at a meeting.

Activist Malcolm X appears at a meeting at 2nd Baptist Church, [1962]. Herald Examiner Collection

With over 100,000 images and counting, the Los Angeles Public Library's online photo collection provides a visual history of the city from the 1850s to the present. Individual collections like Shades of L.A., Security Pacific National Bank, and the Herald Examiner and Valley Times newspaper archives, along with smaller collections by photographers Gary Leonard and Rolland J. Curtis, help reflect the diversity of the city and the people who have helped shape its history in big and small ways. To celebrate African American History Month, here is a small sampling of images from the collection showing those who made their mark on our city. 

Portrait of Biddy Mason

Biddy Mason was born into slavery, but after escaping to Los Angeles in the 1850s, successfully petitioned the courts for her freedom. She worked as a nurse and later amassed a small fortune in real estate, much of which was donated to local charities, [nd]. Security Pacific National Bank Collection 

Miriam Matthews sitting on lawn of Watts Library

Miriam Matthews, the first African American librarian in the Los Angeles Public Library system. She worked from 1927 to 1960, both as a branch librarian and as a supervisor of 12 branch libraries, [1943]. Shades of L.A. Collection 

Dodger infielder Jackie Robinson and his son by TWA airplane stairs

Jackie Robinson, infielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers and responsible for breaking through Major League Baseball's color barrier arrives in Los Angeles with his son in February 1950 to begin filming The Jackie Robinson Story, [1950]Herald Examiner Collection 

Charlotta A. Bass, publisher and editor of the California Eagle newspaper (an issue is on the table).

Charlotta A. Bass, publisher and editor of the California Eagle newspaper from 1912 - 1951, [ca. 1952]. Shades of L.A. Collection

Lional Hampton rides in a Cadillac convertible with a group of people in front of Club Alabam on Central Avenue in Los Angeles.

Lionel Hampton, jazz musician and band leader (far left), rides in a Cadillac convertible in front of the fabled Club Alabam on Central Avenue, [ca. 1953]. Shades of L.A. Collection 

Photo of Nat 'King' Cole with some of his awards.

Legendary jazz musican and vocalist Nat King Cole poses with awards earned during his career, [1958]. Herald Examiner Collection

Black and white headshot of Paul R. Williams

Portrait of Paul Revere Williams, a prolific architect who in addition to designing numerous public buildings on the National Registry, also planned over 2,000 private residences, [1951]. Herald Examiner Collection

Reverend Thomas Kilgore pictured with Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. with a group of youth.

Reverend Thomas Kilgore, pastor of Second Baptist Church, poses with good friend Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and local youth, [1964]. Rolland J. Curtis Collection

Black and white photo of Louis Lomax sitting at a desk and speaking into a microphone.

Louis Lomax became the first African American journalist to appear on television (WNTA -TV in New York) and also first to host his own discussion-interview format television program for KTTV in Los Angeles, [1965]. Valley Times Collection 

Marilyn White, the silver medal winner in track and field at the 1964 Olympic Games, shows her medal to friends at Bishop Conaty-Our Lady of Loretto High School, her alma mater.

Marilyn White, the silver medal winner in track and field at the 1964 Olympic Games, shows her medal to friends at Bishop Conaty-Our Lady of Loretto High School, her alma mater, [ca. 1965]. Shades of L.A. Collection

	Los Angeles City Council representatives Tom Bradley and Billy Mills present a proclamation honoring actor Sidney Poitier.

Los Angeles City Council representatives Tom Bradley and Billy Mills present a proclamation honoring actor Sidney Poitier, [1964]. Rolland J. Curtis Collection

Whitney Young, Director of the National Urban League dedicates the Los Angeles Urban League headquarters.

Whitney Young, Director of the National Urban League dedicates the Los Angeles Urban League headquarters, [1968]. Photo credit: Myron Dubee, Herald Examiner Collection

	Angela Davis speaks from the Spring Street steps of City Hall during the community rally.

Activist Angela Davis speaks from the Spring Street steps of City Hall during the community rally on December 11, 1969; on the left is Rev. H. H. Brookins from First A.M.E. Church. Between 3,000 and 5,000 people came out to protest the deteriorating relations between the Los Angeles Police Department and the Black Community. Rolland J. Curtis Collection

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson addresses the Los Angeles School Board to improve the quality of education of minority children.

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, of Operation PUSH, addresses the Los Angeles School Board in 1977 during a drive to improve the quality of education of minority children. Photo credit: Mike Sergieff, Herald Examiner Collection

Baseball player Reggie Jackson at bat, hitting the ball to centerfield.

Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson hits a homerun for the California Angels, [1982]. Photo credit: Rob Brown, Herald Examiner Collection

Marcus Allen takes a bow at L.A. City Hall ceremony celebrating the Raiders Super Bowl championship.

Marcus Allen takes a bow at City Hall during the parade celebrating the Los Angeles Raiders Super Bowl victory, [1984]. Photo credit: James Ruebsamen, Herald Examiner Collection

USC's Cheryl Miller cuts down a basketball net during Trojan's post-game celebration.

Cheryl Miller, who later was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, is shown cutting down one of the nets during a USC Trojans' post-game celebration, [1984]. Photo credit: Paul Chinn, Herald Examiner Collection

Sheila E. with Willis Edwards and Barbara Warren and a young girl attending the NAACP Image Awards in 1985.

Musician Sheila E., left, with young friend Nicole Escovedo in matching attire, arrives at Wiltern Theater in 1985 for 18th annual NAACP Image Awards presentation of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood branch. Accompanying the singing star is Willis Edwards, president of the Hollywood chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Barbara Warren. Photo credit: Anne Knudsen, Herald Examiner Collection

Barry White at Jordan High School in 1987

Singer-songwriter Barry White visits Jordan High School, [1987]. Photo credit: Michael Haering, Herald Examiner Collection

Mayor Bradley stands at the podium addressing the press, officials and a room full of people.

Mayor Tom Bradley delivers a State of the City address, [1988]. Photo credit: Mike Mullen, Herald Examiner Collection

Lakers Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sitting on the sideline protesting a call made by officials.

Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (sidelined with an injury) protest a call made by officials at a 1988 game between the Lakers and the Seattle Supersonics; the Lakers won, 110-106. Photo credit: Steve Grayson, Herald Examiner Collection

Solo black and white photo of rapper Eazy-E

Eazy-E, and also known as The Godfather of "Gangsta Rap," is shown in 1989. He performed both as a solo artist and with L.A. rappers Ice Cube and Dr. Dre in N.W.A. Photo credit: Steve Grayson, Herald Examiner Collection

Black and white sideview photo of quarterback Rodney Peete smiling on the field.

USC star quarterback and Heisman candidate Rodney Peete is all smiles during a 1989 practice. Photo credit: Paul Chinn, Herald Examiner Collection

Author Walter Mosley holding a paperback copy of his book "Little Scarlet" at the Watts Towers.. 

Walter Mosley, a prominent American novelist recognized for his crime fiction, is shown here holding a paperback copy of his book "Little Scarlet" at the Watts Towers, [2005]. Gary Leonard Collection

 


 

 

 

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