From the Collections: A Look At African American History

I just love viewing L.A. history, particularly, when it involves people, books and reading. In honor of African American History Month, here are a few of my favorites from Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection as well as some reading recommendations. I stand on the shoulders of women like Miriam Matthews, LAPL’s first African-American librarian. –Jené D. Brown, Librarian and Volunteer Services.

From Shades of L.A.: African American Community

The first two images below are from Shades of L.A., an archive of photographs representing the contemporary and historic diversity of families in Los Angeles. Images were chosen from family albums and include daily life, social organizations, work, personal and holiday celebrations, and migration and immigration activities.

Friends at an Event

Mr. and Mrs. Larry Wilson, Miriam Matthews, the first Black librarian in Los Angeles (2nd from right), and standing in rear, Angelique De Lavallade. Circa 1946.

Portrait of a Woman

A signed portrait of Miriam Matthews, the first African American librarian in Los Angeles who worked at Los Angeles Public Library from 1927 to 1960.

Bookmobile in Watts

Reading material in the city’s mobile library unit attracted the fancy of Arthur and Joe Lottie, 8 and 9 yrs. old respectively, as librarian Marion K. Cobb helps them make a selection”. Photo dated: Aug. 13, 1966.

Parade Float, Watts

A parade float in Watts. Sign on side of float reads, “Mother of Watts C.A.C Future Child Care Center.” Photo dated: August 14, 1968.

Dedication of Exposition Park-Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Branch

David Cunningham (right), member of the Los Angeles City Council, and an unidentified woman hold a portrait of Mary McLeod Bethune at the dedication event of the Exposition Park-Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Branch at 3665 South Vermont Avenue.

Vernon Branch Library’s 50th Anniversary

Mrs. Leontyne King holds a proclamation celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Vernon Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Attending the ceremony, left to right, are Thomas Bradley, Councilman, 10th District; Albert A. Le Vine, president, Library Commission; Billy G. Mills, Councilman, 8th District; Harold L. Hamill, City Librarian; Mrs. Leontyne, Library Commissioner; Dr. Albert A. Raubenheimer, Library Commisioner; Joe Sutton, Vernon Branch librarian. Circa 1965.


Reading Recommendations

Kindred by Octavia Butler
Now is the time to open your heart : a novel by Alica Walker
The dream keeper and other poems by Langston Hughes
Some soul to keep by J. California Cooper
The souls of black folk by W.E.B. DuBois
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