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African American Museum Host Event on The History of Central Ave in Los Angeles

Postcard view of Dunbar Hotel, ca. 1940

South Central, Los Angeles--The African American Museum hosted an event earlier this week to share the history of Central Ave in Los Angeles.

Due to discrimination and restrictive renting policies, the growing African-American population seeking to expand, set up along Central Avenue. It would become the center of African-American life in Los Angeles as early as 1915. 

There are two periods of African-American migration in Los Angeles.

Known as the Great Migration, more than 6 million African-Americans relocated in the North and Midwest areas, seeking better opportunities and fleeing the horrors of racism in the deep south.

From 1890-1900 there was a growing Black community in and around downtown Los Angeles in the area known as “Brick Block.”

This is where a Black woman and former slave who contested her freedom owned land. Her name was Biddy Mason and she was one of the leading pioneers of Black land owners in Los Angeles.

The second phase happened during WWII during the 1940’s.

A reported 50,000 African-Americans settled in and around Central Avenue during and after World War II. 

Housing was limited for the newcomers and families in the community were forced to double up in single family homes and even rooms. 

“New homeowners, made up of the solidifying white upper class of boomtown Los Angeles, were required to sign racially restrictive covenants as part of the deed to their properties, promising to never sell to African Americans. These covenants were prevalent throughout Los Angeles (and all of America) during the early 20th century, a reaction to increasing black mobility. Covenants were the reason that African-American life in LA centered around Central Avenue during the first half of the 20th century; it was one of the few places in Los Angeles that black people were legally allowed to live,” (LA Curbed).

There are many historical moments, businesses and staples of African-American culture that happened along Central Avenue that should always be discussed and remembered.

One of these rarely discussed facts, is that the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles was mobilized, their leader Bunchy Carter was killed at UCLA in 1969 and the BPP had a four-hour shoot out with police on 41st and Central.

They would later win their lawsuit against the police for unlawful entry and were hailed as heroes of the community for standing their ground.

The BPP’s building has been demolished, yet the structures and businesses next to their former office remain standing.

Two former L.A BPP members were at the presentation on Central Avenue. They gave a short speech and invited those in attendance to a memorial for Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, (both members and leaders of L.A’s chapter of the BPP killed at UCLA) in January 2019.

Read More: https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/afam/2010/afam_los_angeles.htm

http://scalar.usc.edu/works/historic-central-avenue-los-angeles/a-brief-history-of-central-avenue 

https://la.curbed.com/2018/2/22/16979700/west-adams-history-segregation-housing-covenants

About slausongirl

Slauson Girl is a South Central native who has a love for journalism, history and all things Hip-Hop. She holds a B.A in Critical Race & Gender Theory & a Minor in Journalism.

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