Scope and Content
Organization and Arrangement
Title: Miriam Matthews Photograph collection
Date (inclusive): 1781-1989
Collection number: 1889
Matthews, Miriam, collector.
98 boxes (50 linear ft.)
Abstract: The Miriam Matthews Photograph collection consists of 4,600 black and white photographs of varying sizes, negatives, captions
and descriptions from museum exhibitions, and a slide carousel. The collection reflects Matthews' dedication to the preservation
of African American history in Los Angeles. The chronology of the scenes and people depicted in this collection spans from
the Spanish founding of the city in the late 18th century to the 1980s, with the bulk of the collection from the twentieth
century. Key points of interest from the Spanish and Mexican eras include the founding Los Angeles
pobladores of African descent, African American stagecoach drivers and overland guides to California, and the multiracial
californio family of Pio Pico. Other points of interest after U.S. annexation in 1848 include the influx of middle class African Americans
to Los Angeles between 1890 and 1915, as well as the churches, social, charitable, and fraternal organizations they formed
during this period and through the 1980s. Matthews' collection also highlights those individuals who contributed to civil
rights legislation and advocacy, those who were elected or appointed to government positions, popular entertainers, artists,
and black-owned businesses. There is also substantial collection of photographs produced by black photographer Harry H. Adams,
documenting life, politics, community service, and civil rights movement in Los Angeles in the 1960s.
Language: Finding aid is written in
Language of the Material:
Materials are in English.
University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections
for paging information.
Restrictions on Access
Open for research. STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library
Special Collections for paging information.
Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
Property rights to the physical object belong to the UC Regents. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the
creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright
owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.
Provenance/Source of Acquisition
Gift/purchase from Charles Matthews, Jr., 2011.
Processed by Caroline Bunnell Harris in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Megan Hahn
Fraser, June 2012.
The processing of this collection was generously supported by
[Identification of item], Miriam Matthews Photograph collection (Collection 1889). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles
E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
UCLA Catalog Record ID
Miriam Matthews was born in Pensacola, Florida on August 6, 1905 to Reuben and Fannie Matthews. Two years later the Matthews
family moved to a neighborhood of European immigrants in Los Angeles, just south of downtown, where her father found work
as a house painter. Matthews received her Bachelor's degree from University of California at Berkeley in 1926 and her librarian's
certificate a year later. Matthews was hired as the first black librarian in California by the Los Angeles Public Library
in 1927, despite attempts to prevent her from knowing the date of the Civil Service examination. After working for ten years
at the Los Angeles Public Library without promotion, Matthews took a leave of absence to pursue a Masters degree in Library
Science at the University of Chicago. She was then promoted to a position as a regional librarian, supervising the management
of several libraries until her retirement in 1960. Early on in her career, Matthews discovered a small collection of books
detailing the role of African Americans, and people of African descent, in the founding of Los Angeles and began building
her own collection of books, manuscripts, and photographs. Her work in the preservation and exhibition of Los Angeles' black
past continued long after her retirement.
Scope and Content
The prominent black families and individuals represented in this collection are organized using Matthews' chronology and terminology.
The titles given to them, such as "founders," "settlers," and "pioneers" reflect the context and values in which Matthews
lived. Those designated as Founders were the original
pobladores, a group of mixed race colonists, who established the pueblo of Los Angeles for New Spain. Manuel Camero and Jose Moreno,
both of African descent, are highlighted in this collection. The Early Settlers include those of Spanish, Mexican, or American
origin, who arrived after the founding in 1781. Juan Fernando Reyes, the first black mayor of Los Angeles, and other Californios
of African descent, in particular, Pio Pico, are highlighted in this series. The Pioneers refer to the African American men
and women who migrated to Los Angeles at the turn of the century, seeking greater freedom and opportunity than the Jim Crow
South offered. The twentieth-century figures highlighted by Matthews included those who worked for the expansion of civil
and human rights, such as Loren Miller and Ralph Bunche.
Photographs of the daily lives of African Americans in Los Angeles include their involvement in churches, social organizations,
civil rights movements, entertainment, sports and recreation, businesses and professions, parades, education, military, civil
service, and street scenes.
Harry H. Adams was a photographer for the California Eagle and Los Angeles Sentinel newspapers, and for churches, organizations,
and individuals within the black community. While his photographic career spanned from 1955 to 1988, the bulk of the collection
housed here is from the 1960s and includes images of civil rights movements, churches, schools, business, entertainment, police,
sports, and street scenes.
Material from museum and gallery exhibitions includes text, signage, and mounted photographs used at the California African
American Museum, the California Museum of Industry, El Pueblo Historic Park, Los Angeles Public Library, and possibly other
unidentified exhibitions. This series also includes a slide carousel and slides depicting the early history of African Americans
Organization and Arrangement
Arranged in the following series:
- Early California
- Daily Life in Black Los Angeles and California
- Black Photographers
- Museum and Gallery Exhibitions
- Prominent Individuals and Families
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
African Americans --California.
Genres and Forms of Material