The Miriam Matthews Photographic 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.
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.
98 boxes (50 linear ft.)
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.
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.