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Celebrating African American Heritage Month with the LAPL Photo Collection

Christina Rice, Senior Librarian, Photo Collection,

Activist Malcolm X appears as a spectator during a 1964 court trial in Los Angeles. (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. 

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. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection) 

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.  (Shades of L.A. Collection)

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. (Herald Examiner Collection)


Charlotta A. Bass, publisher and editor of the California Eagle newspaper from 1912 - 1951. (Shades of L.A. Collection) 

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

Legendary jazz musican and vocalist Nat King Cole poses with awards earned during his career. (Herald Examiner Collection)  

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. (Herald Examiner Collection) 

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

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. He is shown here in 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. (Shades of L.A. Collection)

Los Angeles City Council representatives Tom Bradley and Billy Mills present a proclamation honoring actor Sidney Poitier, circa 1966. (Rolland J. Curtis Collection) 

Whitney Young, Director of the National Urban League dedicates the Los Angeles Urban League headquarters in 1968. (Myron Dubee/Herald Examiner Collection)

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, of Operation PUSH, addresses the Los Angeles School Board in 1977 during a drive to improve the quality of education of minority children. (Mike Sergieff/Herald Examiner Collection)

Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson hits a homerun for the California Angels in 1982. (Rob Brown/Herald Examiner Collection)

Marcus Allen takes a bow at  City Hall during the parade celebrating the Los Angeles Raiders Super Bowl victory in 1984. (James Ruebsamen/Herald Examiner Collection)

Cheryl Miller, currently the women's basketball coach at Langston University, is shown cutting down one of the nets during a USC Trojans' post-game celebration in 1984. (Paul Chinn/Herald Examiner Collection) 

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. (Anne Knudsen/Herald Examiner Collection)

Singer-songwriter Barry White visits Jordan High School in 1987. (Michael Haering/Herald Examiner Collection)

Mayor Tom Bradley delivers a State of the City address in 1988. (Mike Mullen/Herald Examiner Collection)

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. (Steve Grayson/Herald Examiner Collection)

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. (Steve Grayson/Herald Examiner Collection) 

USC star quarterback and Heisman candidate Rodney Peete is all smiles during a 1989 practice. (Paul Chinn/Herald Examiner Collection)


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 in 2005. (Gary Leonard Collection)