African Americans have been in L.A. literally since day one: It’s been recorded that of the pobladores – the 44 people and four soldiers who first settled El Pueblo de los Angeles in 1789 – there were two fully black adults, eight partly black adults, and several children of mixed race. But although one of L.A.’s oldest streets, Pico Boulevard, was named for a prominent Angeleno with some African heritage (Pío Pico was one-eighth black), it wasn’t until 1965 when a black person was honored with a street in this county – and that was Joe Fambrough, who lived in Bakersfield! The struggle for recognition and respect continues: aside from thoroughfares named for Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama, the rest of these streets are very short, usually just a block or two long.
Streets named for individuals:
- Anderson Avenue (Compton). For James Anderson Jr., the first black Marine to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
- Arthur L. Reese Court (Venice). For Venice’s official town decorator.
- Barthe Drive (Pasadena). For sculptor Richmond Barthé.
- Fambrough Street (Santa Clarita). For entrepreneur/developer Jawayne “Joe” Fambrough.
- Harriet Tubman Way (Lynwood). For the abolitionist.
- Irving Tabor Court (Venice). For friend and employee of Venice founder Abbot Kinney.
- Johnnie Cochran Vista (Mid-City). For the attorney.
- Kareem Court (Inglewood). For L.A. Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (Crenshaw, Leimert Park, South L.A.). Also: Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue (Long Beach), Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (Lynwood). For the civil rights leader.
- Obama Boulevard (Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, Jefferson Park). For the 44th President of the United States.
- Rochester Circle (Jefferson Park). For comic actor Eddie “Rochester” Anderson.
- Rolland Curtis Place (Jefferson Park). For a civic leader and photographer.
- Thurgood Marshall Street (Pasadena). For the Supreme Court Justice.
Streets that played a notable role, positive or negative, in L.A.’s black history:
- Alondra Boulevard (Bellflower, Compton, La Mirada, Norwalk, Paramount). For a park that destroyed the planned black community of Gordon Manor.
- Azusa Street (DTLA). Birthplace of Pentecostalism under the guidance of a black preacher.
- Central Avenue (Los Angeles (Citywide), Carson, Compton). Vibrant center of 20th century black Los Angeles.
- Crenshaw Boulevard (L.A. (Citywide), Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Rancho Palos Verdes, Torrance). Target of a failed 2003 proposal to name a street for L.A. mayor Tom Bradley.
- Leimert Boulevard (Leimert Park). Thoroughfare of a once whites-only, now culturally significant black neighborhood.
- Marine Avenue (Gardena, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach). Former portion of Compton Boulevard, controversially renamed in the 1980s.
- Somerset Boulevard (Bellflower, Paramount). Former portion of Compton Boulevard, controversially renamed in the 1980s.