"I am here to tell the story of my family—a story of the Black American West."
— Arianne Edmonds, Great-Great Granddaugther of J.L. Edmonds
I chose this project, but it also chose me. When I was little my grandfather, Chase Edmonds II, would point to a family photo — his dad's 1904 graduating class. He would say, "One day, this is going to be very important to you." I forgot about it for many years, until a trip back to Los Angeles after college.
I was a young professional thinking about an essay topic for my grad school application. I remembered the photo my grandfather had shown me and decided to do some research.
An online article led me to the Culver City Library, where I found books, articles and essays about my great great grandfather, J,L. Edmonds, and his contribution to early Los Angeles life. I pulled these books off the shelves and sat in the library aisle reading. I was completely overwhelmed and shocked how much I didn't know about my family and the city of LA.
I went to my dad, Paul Edmonds, to find out more. He said, "Remember when you where little, I told you we were going to work on a project together?" From out of a safe in his home office, he pulls out six bound books the size of encyclopedias. They where filled with issues of The Liberator newspaper, all published by my great great grandfather from 1900-1914.
"What does this mean?” I asked. “What are we going to do with all of this?" He said, "Each of us have done a little bit work to preserve this story. Now it's your turn." At that moment, I realized I needed to share this part of Los Angeles history with my extended family and the rest of the world.
I began studying, researching, working with institutions, and documenting my process. Along the way I had help from many talented people. And now I'm so glad to be sharing this story with you.