Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Black community in Los Angeles is resilient. It’s hard to discuss Black history in the city without acknowledging the Watts riots in 1965 and the LA riots in 1992. However, African Americans continue to march forward, making significant contributions to LA’s economic, social, and cultural landscape. Walk in their shoes and take a tour of landmarks, museums, and neighborhoods that showcase the pride and achievements of African American Angelenos.*
Begin your interactive Black history lesson downtown at Biddy Mason Memorial Park, named after Bridget “Biddy” Mason. Mason was born into slavery in 1818, granted her freedom in 1856, and in 1866 built a home on the plot of land that is now a mini-park in her honor. Then check out the sprawling California African American Museum, the first African American museum of art, history and culture fully supported by a state.
In South Central Los Angeles, don’t miss the iconic Watts Towers, affectionately called “Nuestro Pueblo.” The steel structures designed by Simon Rodia and embellished with mosaic tiles are a symbol of pride and freedom for the Watts community. Guided public tours are offered from outside of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus.
While exploring South Los Angeles, stop by the African American Firefighter Museum. Set in a landmark fire station, it’s dedicated to LA’s pioneering African American firemen. Drive down Barack Obama Boulevard, which runs through the predominantly Black Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw neighborhoods.
Known as “the Black Beverly Hills,” Baldwin Hills is where choreographer and Kennedy Center honoree Debbie Allen established her non-profit Debbie Allen Dance Academy. It was the area of choice for A-listers like Tina Turner, Ray Charles, and Los Angeles’ first (and so far only) Black mayor Tom Bradley, who owned posh hillside homes there. Nearby, hike and picnic in Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, one of the largest inner city parks in greater Los Angeles, and get a grand city view with a glimpse of the Hollywood sign at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. In Crenshaw, take a sneak peek at the developing Destination Crenshaw project, scheduled for completion in 2021. The 1.3 mile open-air museum along Crenshaw Boulevard was designed by acclaimed African American architect Zena Howard, and will showcase over 100 works by Black artists, highlighting the city’s history of Black activism.
Ready for a bite and a sip? Grab a table at one of these five Black-owned LA eateries:
Enjoy hand-stretched pizza and seasonal California cuisine with a Southern twist at Post & Beam, restaurateur Brad Johnson’s happy hour hot spot at the popular Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall. They had us at vegan crab cakes with black eyed pea hummus.
Owner Desiree Edwards serves up soul food staples like fried chicken wings, salmon croquettes, and grits at Watts Coffee House—a longtime fixture in the historic Watts neighborhood decorated with Black memorabilia.
Swing by floral designer Maurice Harris’s Bloom & Plume Coffee, an art-filled cafe in Filipinotown. It’s known for its creative coffee and tea drinks, house made waffles, artisanal sammies, and fresh flowers.
Take a tasty cupcake break at Big Man Bakes (a nod to owner Chip Brown) in downtown LA. Try the yummy Mounds dark chocolate cake with coconut vanilla buttercream frosting.
Tacos Negros By My Two Cents LA in Mid-Wilshire bills itself as “where soul and the tortilla meet.” And we’re here for it—especially for dos orders of the crispy catfish, braised oxtail, and callaloo and plantain tacos.
*With things being the way they are, don’t forget to plan ahead. So double check business hours and days of operation for the locations listed above.