Angels Walk Los Angeles treats you to a tour of the rich history of African Americans on Central Avenue

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- South Los Angeles resident Michael Harris says Central Avenue was the first place in California that Blacks could live and it was the base of the Black community.

The rich history of Central Avenue includes the Lincoln Theatre, where brilliant African American artists like Lionel Hampton performed. The dancing legend and performer Jellybean Johnson wowed audiences in the 1930s and other legendary African American artists showcased their talents.

In 1935 famed white comedian Jack Benny emceed a fundraiser at the theater, a benefit for the NAACP. Harris says it was known as the Black Mecca.

Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price says Central Avenue is certainly a multi-cultural multi-ethnic vibrant community in South Los Angeles.

The city has been working to create the Angels Walk Los Angeles tour for over a decade. The 1.6-mile stretch of Central Avenue is filled with 15 different historical sites. The work creating the tour was completed a few weeks ago and includes the first YMCA west of the Mississippi allowing Blacks as customers. It was known as the "colored branch."

There's a pamphlet available for a self guided tour. It features a 1940s census data map titled "Distribution of Negros" primarily focusing on Central Avenue. Angels Walk co-director Tracey Lane says these stories needed to be told, of those who - despite racial injustice - built an incredibly strong and dynamic community.

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