Current total count: 17,040 photographs and negatives processed.
It’s been a very hectic few months , which is why there hasn’t been a blog post in quite a while. October was spent finishing up the initial processing of the majority of the collection. I had my birthday in November, along with Thanksgiving and my graduation from UBC, so I was gone for several weeks. I’ve processed nearly the entire collection, which is currently numbered at 17, 040 photos and negatives. There are a few hundred still unprocessed, orphans which may belong to other series or by themselves. I’m in the process of cleaning up the arrangement and still hold out hope that I can reunite a few to their original events. Currently, my desk has been overrun by the orphan photos, spread out in a gigantic game of memory.
I’m also halfway done with the work for the Curtis Exhibit, which will be unveiled in January 2016 at the History and Genealogy Department at the Central Branch of the LAPL. Photos and captions are almost complete, with an exhibit book in progress.
I thought this would be a great time to talk about the photos I managed to identify a few months ago regarding Angela Davis. Angela Davis was hired as an assistant professor for the Philosophy Department at UCLA. Davis was an activist, radical feminist, a member of the Communist Party, with ties to the Black Panther party. Months after she was hired, under the urging of Governor Ronald Reagan, Davis was fired by the Board of Regents at UCLA, mainly because of her membership in the Communist Party.
When her position was reinstated, largely because a judge ruled that the Regents could not fire her based solely on her political affiliations, the Regents released her again in 1970, firing her this time for language she used in her speeches at school.
It was around this time that the Soledad Brothers’ trial began. The Soledad Brothers were 3 African American men who had been accused of killing a prison guard at Soledad Prison. During their trial in 1970, an African American high school student named Jonathan Jackson held the courtroom hostage. Jackson was heavily armed, and while attempting to escape with the one of the defendants and hostages, the police opened fire on their vehicle, killing Jackson, the defendant and Superior Court Judge Harold Haley, who had been one of the hostages. Angela Davis had purchased the firearms used by Jackson days earlier and had been corresponding with one of the inmates. Based on this evidence, she was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley.
The subsequent manhunt for Angela Davis, which began on August 14, 1970, earned her a place on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive list. Davis fled California, staying at friend’s homes and moving from place to place regularly. On October 13, 1970, FBI agents found her at a motor lodge in New York City, earning the praise of President Nixon on the “capture of the dangerous terrorist, Angela Davis.”
In the months she spent in jail before her trial, the “Free Angela Davis” movement grew and was in full force. Songs were written, committees were started, in the United States and throughout the world, all with the goal of freeing Angela Davis. Bail and portions of her legal defense were paid for by churches and local businessmen. When a TWA flight was hijacked in 1972, one of the demands was the release of Angela Davis.
Which brings us to our mystery pictures:
You’ll have to excuse the quality of the pictures. I used the app on my phone to create positives from the negatives. It began with the picture of Billy Mills with the woman in glasses. This photo was part of the group indexed under Mills, Billy. The woman was unidentified. I couldn’t even read her pin. At the time, nothing else in the picture indicated the event, so I put the photo aside to identify later.
I then stumbled upon these pictures, which were indexed under Operation Breadbasket.
This was obviously a rally to free Angela Davis by Operation Breadbasket. It had been filed with all of the other Operation Breadbasket pictures. However, I recognized the woman Rev. H. H. Brookins was shaking hands with. With the help of my trusty jewelry loupe, I was able to read the award and identify the woman as Sallye Davis, the mother of Angela Davis, who had attended the Operation Breadbasket meeting.
It struck me as strange that the meeting seemed to be outdoors. All of the Operation Breadbasket meetings were indoors, at least in the pictures. I did a bit of digging and found an article in the Los Angeles Sentinel talking about the meeting.
She’s even wearing the same outfit in the picture! Hair, necklace, glasses, pin and everything! It turns out that the meeting began at Elks Hall, where Operation Breadbasket normally had meetings. However, in the middle of his speech, Reverend Jesse Boyd had been told that there was a bomb threat placed on the building. The building was evacuated, with hundreds of newly evacuated people milling around in the parking lot. Rev. Boyd and Rev. Brookins stood on a car bumper and called the people to order. A table was brought out and became a speakers platform, on which Rev. Boyd, Rev. Brookins and Sallye Davis stood for the rest of the meeting. Rolland Curtis was there to capture the entire event.
The police continued to search the building but found no bombs at Elks Hall. Davis was acquitted of all charges in June of 1972, by an all-white jury. The remaining Soledad Brothers were acquitted of all charges in March of 1972.
Cleaver, Jim. 1971. “Angela’s Mother Speaks Despite Threat of Bomb.” Los Angeles Sentinel (1934-2005), Jul 15, 2. http://ezproxy.lapl.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/564989128?accountid=6749.