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Oviatt Spotlight: The Tom & Ethel Bradley Center

eNews Edition: Spring 2019

Phyllis Bradley, Lorraine Bradley, Ethel Bradley, Tom Bradley, and Rev. H.H. Brookins.
Bradley Election Night, Los Angeles, 1973 - Tom Bradley wins 1973 mayoral race. He becomes the first African American mayor of Los Angeles. (L-R) Phyllis Bradley, Lorraine Bradley, Ethel Bradley, Tom Bradley, and Rev. H.H. Brookins. See more photos in our Digital Collections

Did you know that the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center at CSUN has over one million images produced by Los Angeles-based photographers that document the social, cultural and political lives of the diverse communities of the Southern California region between the 1910s and the present? The archives, now held within the Oviatt Library, contain one of the largest collections of African American photographers west of the Mississippi and the most extensive collection in Southern California.

Dr. Kent Kirkton established the Bradley Center in 1990 in the CSUN Department of Journalism. It was originally known as the Center for Photojournalism & Visual History. The center was renamed the Institute for Arts & Media in 2008 as its mission and participation broadened over the years. In 2015, the Institute for Arts & Media developed an ongoing relationship with the Tom & Ethel Bradley Foundation and was renamed the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center.

The Center’s photography collection has 16 available collections with over one million images from the 1910s to the present. Nine Los Angeles-based African American photographers produced about 80% of the collection. The African American Collection documents the social, cultural, and political aspects of African American life in post-World War II Los Angeles and Southern California. The images contained in these collections represent an ongoing eff­ort to digitally preserve and exhibit these important works as part of the mission of the Bradley Center and the Oviatt Library to support research.

Gladys Knight and the Pips, Los Angeles, ca. 1973
Gladys Knight and the Pips, Los Angeles, ca. 1973 - Gladys Knight and the Pips performing in a nightclub. See more photos in our Digital Collections

Presented are nationally significant themes such as racial segregation and discrimination, the civil rights movement, African American entertainment, sports and cultural leaders, and major political and cultural events. Outside of Los Angeles is coverage of the wars in El Salvador and Honduras, the Afro-Colombian community Palenque de San Basilio (near Cartagena), Cuba, the Masai and the Maya refugee camps in Mexico. There is extensive documentation of the United Farmworkers organization and César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Padilla, Luis Valdez and other leaders of the union and its members. Also included are images of the San Fernando Valley’s history.

The center is also conducting oral histories in an ongoing e­ffort to preserve the history of African American community members during the Civil Rights era. The collection includes: African American Community, Black Gallery, Black Photographers Roundtable, Border Studies, Journalism Oral History, Photographers, and The United Farmworkers (UFW). Dr. Karin Stanford, CSUN Africana Studies Professor and Keith Rice, Bradley Center Historian/Archivist have continued to conduct oral history interviews with significant members of Black Power organizations such as the Black Panther Party and Us organizations. In February 2019, they began conducting an oral history interview with Jomo Shuford, activist and former member of the Orange County Chapter of the Black Panther Party. The Center will soon begin to conduct oral history interviews with the CSUN African American community, including alumni and faculty.

In the spring of 2018, the Bradley Center asked Dr. Jessica Kim's students enrolled in her course History 596RM: Introduction to Public History to research, write, and produce a short documentary pitch video and interactive timeline on activist Willis Edwards (1946–2012).

Featured video - Willis Edwards: A Legacy of Service

The newest addition to the Bradley Center came in August 30, 2018 when Fred Hardon donated his 1962 Malcolm X interview. The Bradley Center digitized the interview, which consists of an oral interview with Mr. Hardon and Mrs. Gwen Green explaining how their oral history was occurring in the very house that the Malcolm X interview was conducted. The interview and circumstances around how it unfolded, and the fact that it has not been heard in over 50 years, are under consideration for an episode of KCET’s history series, Lost LA.

Images from the Bradley Center have also been featured in many publications including The Black Power Encyclopedia and Ken Burns’ forthcoming Country Music, and in several recent exhibitions including Los Angeles Freedom Rally 1963 at the California African American Museum, the Delores Huerta Traveling Exhibition (part of the Smithsonian Institution series of traveling exhibits), and the Brotherhood Crusade 50th Anniversary Celebration Exhibition.

Staff at the Bradley Center have also been involved in media interviews and other public presentations, including a panel discussion on racial restrictive covenants at the California African American Museum; a presentation on the issues associated with race, discrimination, segregation, and economic inequities in America at the Naperville Heritage Society at at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes; an interview on Spectrum News 1 about preserving African American history in Los Angeles; a discussion of Karin Stanford’s book Images of African American in Los Angeles; and a presentation at the Los Angeles Central Library on Black Angeleno Trailblazer Families. 

As you can imagine, it takes a skilled and detailed team to work on Bradley Center projects. Meet the students and staff, diligently working behind the scenes.

Discover the Bradley Center’s Collections at