The Liberator: Influential African American Newspaper of 1900s Los Angeles

The Liberator: Influential African American Newspaper of 1900s Los Angeles


My name is Amanda Charles, I’m the librarian
III in digitization and special collections. The Liberator is an African-American news
publication from the early 20th century Los Angeles. We were listed in Worldcat as being the only
library that held any copies. When I saw it on the list, I was so intrigued
and excited by this prospect, that I immediately went to our stacks, found it, and I was just
amazed. The Liberator was founded by Jefferson Lewis
Edmonds, who was born in Mississippi, enslaved, and was emancipated through the emancipation
proclamation. He was educated in Mississippi Freedman’s
bureau schools. He was a farmer and a teacher. He worked to encourage his community to exercise
the vote, at great peril to his safety. African-Americans were losing their rights,
Jim Crow was taking hold, there were threats of violence against African-Americans who
voted. There was a large-scale campaign of basically
terrorism aimed at depriving African Americans of their newly-won rights. Threats to the safety of the Edmonds family
were such that Jefferson Edmonds moved his wife and all of their nine children to Los
Angeles. I’m Arianne Edmonds and I am the great-great-grandaughter of Jefferson Lewis Edmonds. My family has been in LA for six generations. I kind of broke traditions in many ways by
leaving, and I lived on the East Coast for a while. Part of the reason I came back was to… …make
sure that Jefferson wasn’t forgotten. Jefferson Edmonds, he did not feel that California
was perfect, but he felt that Los Angeles was a good place for African-Americans to
live, to build businesses, to own property, to raise families. While he was here, he started a newspaper. He used it as a platform to inspire black
families to move to LA… in his paper he had interviews with Booker T. Washington,
and W. DuBois. When those luminaries would come to L.A. he
would take them around, and show off what L.A. could be. The work that he did set the foundation for
black families to come to Los Angeles that’s when we had our huge boom. So Los Angeles Public Library had one volume
of the liberator. It was 1901 to 1902. I found some web pages put up by Arianne Edmonds,
so I reached out to her I contacted her, I said, Los Angeles Public Library is interested
in digitizing what we have of the Liberator. We ultimately posed the idea of a partnership
between the library and the Edmonds family to digitize their copies of the Liberator. We became aware of a grant which will basically
do high-quality digitization. The Liberator will go from being available
in person by appointment only, to being available to anyone with a computer access anywhere
in the world. I have met very few people who care about
this work as much as I do and care as much about telling the story of early Los Angeles,
and telling the story of the black influence in this city. Partnering with the library has allowed us
to do all the things that I had planned for this project. Allowing researchers and students, and I would
say just Los Angeles citizens will have access to this information and that’s beautiful. That’s all we’ve ever wanted.

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