AARP AARP States California Advocacy

The Legacy of Jefferson Lewis Edmonds


Throughout Black History Month we have been focusing on legacy and generational storytelling. We’ve spoken with grandparents who wish to pass along knowledge and experience to their grandchildren, and we’ve explored avenues for making a lasting impact.

It's only fitting that we wrap up February by shining a light on the late Jefferson Lewis Edmonds, a trailblazing Californian who paved the way for generations of Black Americans in the Western United States by sharing his own story. Edmonds was the founder of The Liberator, one of the first Black newspapers in Los Angeles. Born a slave in Mississippi, Edmonds became active in local politics after being freed in 1865. After receiving threats of violence, Edmonds moved to Los Angeles with his wife and nine children in the 1890s.

In addition to starting a business, Edmonds was able to purchase farmland and get involved with civil rights causes. He regularly touted the opportunities he found in Los Angeles in the pages of the Liberator and encouraged Southern Blacks to join him out West.

We spoke with Edmond’s great great granddaughter Arianne Edmonds, the founder of the JL Edmonds Project, about her family’s legacy and her work to #PassItOn; as well as Amanda Charles, the digitization librarian at Los Angeles Public Library, who is helping to preserve JL Edmonds’ legacy for decades to come.

If you are in Los Angeles would like to know more about the JL Edmonds project, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in history at two upcoming events:

LA Made: Black Angeleno Trailblazer Families, a panel discussion about the many contributions African-American residents have made to the history of Los Angeles on March 10 at the Los Angeles Public Library’s Mark Taper Forum from 2 to 3 p.m.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, the opening celebration for The Liberator: Chronicling Black Los Angeles 1900 – 1914 at the California African American Museum on March 20 from 7 to 9 p.m.



About AARP California
Contact information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.