Amoeblog

A brief (and by no means complete) history of Black Los Angeles. Happy Black History Month!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 30, 2012 07:19pm | Post a Comment
Los Angeles' black population is relatively small compared to the city's other major racial and ethnic minorities. The LA metro area is only 8.7% black as compared to 47% Latino (of any race), 28.7% non-Latino white, and 14% Asian/Pacific Islander. However, since its inception, black Angelenos have always played a major role in LA's history and culture. Los Angeles is one of the only major US cities founded largely by people of black African ancestry. When it was still a Spanish colony, Los Angeles began life as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles on 4 September, 1781 (well, sort of). Of the 44 pobladores who ventured over from nearby San Gabriel, a majority of 26 were identified as having African ancestry.

BLACKS IN MEXICAN AND EARLY AMERICAN LOS ANGELES

Pio Pico
Pio Pico ca. 1890

During the period that Los Angeles was part of Mexico (1821-1840), blacks were fairly integrated into society at all levels. Mexico abolished slavery much earlier than the US, in 1820. In 1831, Emanuel Victoria served as California's first black governor. Alta California's last governor, Pío de Jesus Pico, was also of mixed black ancestry. The US won the Mexican-American War and in 1850, California was admitted to the United States. Although one of America's so-called "free states," discriminatory legislation was quickly enacted to restrict and remove the civil rights of blacks, Chinese, and Native Americans. For example, blacks (and other minorities) couldn't testify in court against white people. 

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Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 14, 2007 09:31am | Post a Comment
   
Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. We never learned about it in my schools, which prided themselves on being among the most progressive in the country. Every year we celebrated Black History Month, which began, amazingly, in 1926 as Negro History Week back when the Ku Klux Klan enjoyed its peak membership of 4 to 5 million people (or a whopping 15% of the nation's eligible men). Anyway, we students always raised the same questions: Is it in February because it's the shortest month? Where's Asian or Latino History Month? Where's White History Month? I don't recall my teachers having the answers except that we learned plenty of white history year-round and Black History Month was a time to recognize the contributions of a people to American culture who'd been systematically ignored.

So, this year I found out about Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which began in 1978 and which I had NEVER heard mentioned. Some Asians I knew had, including, of course, noted justice-minded free-thinker Ngoc-Thu Thi Nguyen. She said it was marked by more documentaries about Japanese Internment Camps being shown on PBS. At the same time, I found out about Hispanic Heritage Month, which I mentioned started in 1968, and which I'd also never heard about. 

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