L.A. Legends: Charlotta Bass, The California Eagle

When you write for justice in Los Angeles or any major city, you can bet handily that Black communities did it first, as shown by the work of Charlotta Bass, photographed here circa 1929 at The California Eagle’s printing shop, which was once located at 1607 East 103rd street in Watts.

Bass was the sole editor-in-chief of The California Eagle, which was originally known as The Owl; The Owl had been founded by John J. Neimore, a Black man originally from Texas who started The Owl in Los Angeles in 1879 while still in his teen years. That is, two whole years before even the L.A. Times itself was established!

The California Eagle‘s printing shop, which was once located at 1607 East 103rd street in Watts; Photo Courtesy of USC Digital Libraries

From 1913 to 1951, as editor of L.A.’s first Black owned newspaper, Bass published tirelessly in the name of housing, racial, and economic justice. Among many other issues, Bass published writing against racial covenants, against the KKK in Los Angeles, in opposition to FDR’s internment of Japanese Americans, as well as in opposition to the unjust prosecution of Chicano youth alleged to be members of the 38th street “gang” in the infamous “Sleepy Lagoon” case.

The California Eagle as a publication survived until 1964, when it was sold, but despite the paper’s eventual folding, it still served as a premier cornerstone for Black and Immigrant voices in Los Angeles over four decades, that is, pre Civil Rights movement, pre Black Panther Party, and pre Chicano and Asian American movements in the city.

This blog thus recognizes Bass, Neimore, and every voice still to be heard for justice in Los Angeles over another century in contestation.

J.T.