Press Release Feb 4, 2016

Forgotten Founders: The Hidden African Ancestry of Los Angeles

During African American History Month, NPCA is co-sponsoring a new art exhibit, showcasing the diverse and multi-cultural founders of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, CA – Highlighting the unique, diverse, and often overlooked history of early Los Angeles is Forgotten Founders: The Hidden African Ancestry of Los Angeles, a month-long exhibit, opening at the Pico House at El Pueblo de Los Angeles on February 4, 2016. Presented by National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the California State University, Northridge Public History Program, the Western National Parks Association, and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, Forgotten Founders shares the story of the multi-cultural settlers who founded this city.

Opening during the first week of African American History Month, Forgotten Founders includes stunning images that trace the roots of the early Pobladores, or townspeople, who established and developed the pueblo Los Angeles in 1781. Known today as a city rich in diversity, the exhibit sheds light on its 44 original founders, which included individuals of Spanish and indigenous descent, as well as 26 members of African descent whose role in the founding of Los Angeles impacted other communities made up of descendants of Africa. Their influence reached Mexico and spread throughout the American West.

“Many people forget about the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of these founders, especially of the 26 original Pobladores who were of African descent,” said Dennis Arguelles, Los Angeles Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association. “Telling their story is the goal of this exhibit, and there are few places better suited to showcase this history than El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.”

The exhibit is appropriately housed at the Pico House on the grounds of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, where early settlers lived. El Pueblo is also part of the proposed “Rim of the Valley” expansion of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The staff at El Pueblo currently work with the National Park Service to preserve and interpret the early history of Los Angeles. Increasing the National Park Service’s role in the region through the “Rim of the Valley” expansion would allow spaces like El Pueblo de Los Angeles to implement greater outreach and engagement, preserve and interpret more stories, and bring the significant cultural history of early Los Angeles to new audiences.

In addition to stories depicting early Los Angeles founders, two “See America” posters that showcase other national parks sites that preserve African American history will be featured in the exhibit. The exhibit is the latest Los Angeles partnership project connected to NPCA’s #FindYourVoice initiative. The nationwide effort, launched in 2015, aims to help inspire people to speak up for and protect America’s favorite places – during this centennial celebration year for the National Park Service, and beyond.

Founding Fathers: The Hidden African Ancestry of Los Angeles is free and open to the public, from February 4 – 29, 2016.

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About National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.