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, has 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 our customs and traditions; and to help promote the advancement of our community in the city and the region. It is with these intentions that the designation of the historic Black Central Area neighborhood be renamed as Heritage Park. The Heritage Park boundaries, Willow Avenue to 10th Street and Long Beach Blvd to Walnut Avenue, which encompasses the redlined area in which Long Beach’s earliest Black residents were allowed to live.
Located within Heritage Park 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.
Within Heritage Park banners and signage will be installed at historic sites, informational brochures will be created and widely distributed, tours and celebrations will be held to commemorate the area.
An additional component of Phase Two has been the documenting of historical Black residents, locations, businesses, etc. in preparation for the renaming of a portion of the Long Beach Central Area as Heritage Park. The area bordered by 10th Street to Willow Avenue, and Walnut Avenue to Long Beach Blvd, came to be known as the “Negro District”, later the Central Area. This area was redlined, and designated as the primary area where Early Black residents could live.
Elite Skills, in conjunction with the African American Cultural Center, NAACP, African American Heritage Society of Long Beach, LB Minister’s Alliance and Forgotten Images are working with the City of Long Beach to establish the abovementioned area as Heritage Park. In June and July, two Heritage Tours of the area were conducted for City staff, community leaders, United Cambodian Center and Centro Cha staff. The tours included a historic presentation, lunch, and a bus and walking tour of the area. Heritage Park organizing efforts are ongoing.
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