The first half of the 20th century shaped Black Americans’ identity and influence on the United States. In reaction to racist actions and laws in that period, Long Beach’s Central Area Black neighborhood provided a sense of belonging, serving as a space not only to garner wealth but also to celebrate Black culture in a unique and authentic way.
During this time, a Black cultural identity began to emerge, but Black Americans were still significantly affected by key events such as redlining, segregation and desegregation, and the assassinations of key Civil Rights leaders. These events impacted individual livelihoods and the fate of these neighborhoods.
The history of our Central Area neighborhood has often been hidden and not fully recognized. As a way of honoring Black excellence and our full rich history, the Black community is committed to honoring the heritage of our neighborhood where African American businesses flourished, our churches provided hope and support and Black economic self-empowerment was the norm.
Long Beach’s African American Community, and its Central Area neighborhood, have helped shape the unique
character of our city for more than a century. Music, culture, education, athletics, business, and architecture
are just a few examples of our outstanding contributions to the development and success of Long Beach.
The time has come for these achievements to be recognized and celebrated; to preserve and enrich its customs and traditions, and to help promote the advancement of the African American community in the city and the region. It is with these intentions that the designation of the historic Black Central Area neighborhood, bounded by Willow Avenue to 10th Street and Long Beach Blvd to Walnut Avenue, be documented and perhaps even renamed to better reflect its heritage and significance.
Located within this area are 15 African American churches, the oldest was established in 1903, and 7 of the churches are over 80 years. There are also 4 parks, 2 schools and 4 other historic sites that all recognize significant Black Americans.
The Lamppost Empowerment Project started as a response to the racial injustice exhibited through George Floyd’s death, and the subsequent protests, in May of 2020. As demonstrated in countless circumstances, images have the power to impart subliminal messaging, which has the capability to affect the behavior of individuals. Therefore, this project was created to counteract the media’s overwhelmingly negative imagery of minorities by showcasing positive role models of color. Specifically, the lamppost signs feature Black inventors and trailblazers who have made significant contributions to society. The signs are intended to shift the narrative surrounding people of color into a more positive light, while motivating people to work towards achieving their goals, despite the possible setbacks they may face. Due to the community project partnership with Elite Skills Development, Long Beach Christian Fellowship, and private citizens, the Lamppost Empowerment Project was able to come to fruition. The lamppost signs will be displayed on Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach, California, from October 2022 through February 2023, beginning at the intersection of Jackrabbit Lane through 6th Street.