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Category: Community News
Published on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 15:51
Written by Laura Meyers

The Bumpy Road toward Civil Rights, Social Justice and Equality


The Living History Tour takes place every autumn at the historic landmark, Angelus Rosedale Cemetery. This year it happens on Saturday, September 24 from 9 am to noon. There, amid the elaborate headstones and monuments, costumed actors bring to life a group of fascinating residents from Los Angeles’ earlier times. Visitors also learn the history of this cemetery, and the role it has played in the lives of generations of Angelenos.

This year’s tour, presented by West Adams Heritage Association (WAHA) has an especially timely theme, as we explore the tumultuous journey in this nation toward equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender, or religion.  This year visitors will “meet” historic personages whose life stories reflect the fight for a variety of civil rights, including the right to live wherever one wishes, to vote, for equal treatment, and to obtain social freedom.

Portrayals this year include 

Japanese-American whose family was uprooted in 1942 and sent to a relocation camp, along with a lawyer who lobbied against these internments;

- a well-known suffragette who gave speeches across the state

- an attorney who argued for equality in the armed services 

- a developer who established a resort town nicknamed the “Black Palm Springs;” 

 - one of the original members and founders of the oldest black church in Los Angeles; and one of the original owners of the Dunbar Hotel on Central Avenue.

Among the ten personages that visitors will “meet” are:

Aug16tour4bSidney Dones, an African-American film director and actor in the 1920s who also was a real estate developer responsible for the Booker T. Washington building on Central Avenue. In 1924 he led a group of black investors who purchased 1,000 acres in the Santa Clarita Valley, establishing “Eureka Villa” (later known as Val Verde), a vacation resort that welcomed people of color. 

Aug16tour3George K Matsuura, Japanese-American baseball pitcher in the Nisei League in the 1930s who was “evacuated” from his West Adams home in 1942 and relocated to Camp Amache in Colorado before joining the U.S. Army to fight in World War II.

Aug16tour5bJosefa Tolhurst, president of the
Friday Morning Club and a strong advocate for women’s right to vote.

Pearl Ng Kim Louie, whose Chinese-born mother was brought to San Francisco as a child slave in the 1860s;

John Ballard, who was by 1859 a free man in Los Angeles but who had been a slave in Kentucky. His success in business led him to help establish First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church, which had been organized by Biddy Mason (another former slave) in her living room in 1872;

AUG16tour9bAlmena Lomax, firebrand civil rights journalist who chronicled her own experiences as well as the lives of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr..

Hattie WEB2Hattie McDaniel, who along with being an Oscar-winning actress was also a civil rights activist who played a pivotal role in ending “racial covenants” that prevented people of color from living in some Los Angeles neighborhoods, including West Adams Heights. 

The 65-acre Angelus Rosedale Cemetery (now Angelus Rosedale) was founded in 1884, and its location at the corner of Washington and Normandie was in the countryside, outside the city limits. A  designated City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, it was the first cemetery in Los Angeles open to all races, faiths, and creeds, and the first to use a new approach in design called “lawn cemeteries…where nature and art conspire to surround the burial places of the dead with beautiful trees and flowers, natural scenery and works of monumental art.”

 To this day, the grounds of Angelus Rosedale are beautiful and surprisingly removed from the noise and distractions of the city. It is a place of striking period architecture as well, with the grave monuments reflecting the wealth and/or interests of the resident in the ground below and also the design style of the era in which the monument was erected. There are several pyramids in the cemetery, including a striking Art Deco monument near the north edge of the grounds. Visitors see tall obelisks and beautiful carved winged angels and beautiful women holding roses (signifying “everlasting love”), laurel (eternity), anchors (hope), or clasping hands together (“farewell to earthly existence”). Broken columns and what appear to be unfinished headstones signify a life ended too soon (“a life cut short”).

Tour details:

 Tickets: Purchase tickets online at or mail a check to: WAHA Living History Tour, 2263 S. Harvard Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90018. Early Bird prices (through September 12) are $30 per ticket for the general public. All tickets after September 12 are $35. The tour usually sells out. Tours depart approximately every 25 minutes, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Please specify your time period preference:  tell us if you would like to be placed on a tour that departs in one of three general time periods: Early Morning (9-10 a.m.); Mid-Morning (10-11 a.m.); or Mid-Day (11 a.m. to noon). WAHA will make every effort to assign you  to a specific tour time within the period; assignments will be after September 15th.

Please note that this is an outdoors walking tour of the cemetery lasting approximately 2 ½ hours, over uneven ground. Please wear appropriate shoes and attire for a hot day. Tour “shepherds” guide the visitors describing many of the monuments and telling the stories of those who are buried in the grounds.

 If you have questions about the tour, please reach out to 

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