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10 Benchmarks and Landmarks

Black History on View in L.A.

January 15, 1987|TONI TIPTON | Tipton is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

T his time every year, cities across the nation hold parades, exhibits and historical tours. Monday's events highlight the day set aside to honor the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., who was born 58 years ago today, and other events celebrate Black History Month in February. In Los Angeles, there is a wealth of black history on view, either saluting legacies from the past or paying homage to people and places from the rich cultural present.

Here is a look at some of the places you can visit on your own. A detailed listing of activities in the black community is published in "Black Spots," a quarterly calendar. It features African, Afro-American and West Indian clubs and other entertainment places, historical and cultural events, restaurants and museums. It is available at some of the places listed below or by calling (213) 938-0101.

Old Plaza of Los Angeles--The settlers of the city of Los Angeles marched around a rough plaza on Sept. 4, 1781, in a ceremony on the city's founding day. The founders included 22 adults, of whom 10 were black. The old plaza has been replaced by a modern one on an adjoining spot in Downtown Los Angeles on North Main Street, where it intersects with the south end of Olvera Street.

Black History Tour--During Black History Month, Our Authors Study Club, (213) 295-0521, (213) 566-7881, will conduct its annual Black History Bus Tour. It is a free, first-come, first-serve ride to historical sites, including the home of Hattie McDaniel, the actress who won an Oscar for her role in "Gone With the Wind." The tour also visits First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first church founded by blacks in the city. In the community formerly known as Sugar Hill, visitors will see former homes of wealthy blacks of the 1930s and '40s. In the Pico Heights community are the former homes of black millionaires of this same period. The tour is Jan. 31 and begins at the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building, 1919 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, at 8:30 a.m. and ends at the Davis Memorial Library, 2211 W. Jefferson Blvd. at 1:30 p.m.

Black Talkies on Parade Film Festival--This ninth annual festival, sponsored by the Black American Cinema Society of the Western States Black Research Center, features a large selection of classic black films--among them silent films, early talkies and features. Included are "Cabin in the Sky" with Ethel Waters, Eddie Anderson and Lena Horne and "Carmen Jones" with Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte and Olga Jones. The festival is Feb. 6-12 at the Four Star Theatre, 5112 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. There are three showings daily with separate admissions. Telephone (213) 291-3356.

Aquarian Bookstore--1342 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 296-1633. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. When Alfred M. Ligon and his wife, Bernice, opened the bookstore in 1941 on Jefferson Boulevard, they specialized in books on metaphysics and the occult. They soon incorporated black literature into the selection. Today, Aquarian is the best-known black bookstore in town, and has long been a gathering place for community members. Books run the gamut from history and fiction to poetry and children's literature. There are also hard-to-find magazines, newspapers and pamphlets. The store exhibits and sells posters and other black art works.

Dunbar Hotel--4225 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles. This museum was originally a hotel built by and for blacks in the 1930s. It is barely holding on in its struggle for restoration. The Dunbar was a well-known meeting place for famous blacks of the period, and it was a popular night spot. Members of the white community often spent their Saturday nights in the Dunbar's lounge. Though the character of the facility can be seen from the outside, there are no tours inside.

Brockman Gallery--4334 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles (213) 294-3766. Open Tuesday-Saturday 3-7 p.m. Brockman is the oldest black art gallery in the city, say owners Dale and Alonzo Davis. They started this intimate home for black art in 1967. Works include prints and post cards, sculptures and paintings, jewelry and crafts. Some popular featured artists are Varnette Honeywood and Enrica Marshall.

California Afro-American Museum--Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, (213) 744-7432. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The state-owned museum has held historical and cultural displays since opening in 1981. "Allensworth--An Enduring Dream," runs Feb. 7-Sept. 27. The exhibit portrays the formerly all-black town in Central California, including a life-size replica of a segment of founder Lt. Col. Allen Allensworth's home and a segment of the local school. There is also a scaled-down version of the Santa Fe railroad car used as an office for the colony. The exhibit includes a film, "The Spirit of Allensworth," at 1 p.m. daily. For Black History Month there are weekend film showings and children's workshops in drawing, ceramics and musical instrument making.

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