Hidden History Black Museum opens in Los Angeles

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Tariq Nasheed stands in front of a group of people at the grand opening of the Hidden History Museum in Los Angeles, California.

by Lee Hubbard

While the rain stormed down all day in the Jefferson Park area of Los Angeles, it could not dampen the excitement of the grand opening of the Hidden History Museum of Black culture this past weekend.  

Various actors and celebrities such as Vivica Fox and hundreds of other people were on hand to celebrate the opening. Founded by Tariq Nasheed, an award winning documentary film producer and New York Times best selling author, the Hidden History Museum is a museum, that highlights current and past historical Black figures – from freedom fighters to inventors, master teachers to founding pioneers in Black California, as well as Hip Hop culture on the West Coast.

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The Front of the Hidden History Museum in the Jefferson Park area of Los Angeles. This Museum looks at Black History.

One example of this is an exhibit that looks at the naming of the state: California which was named after Califa, a Black queen who was a Black Moor. The Spanish writer Garci Rodriguez wrote the novel in 1500 and, although Califa was a fictional character, when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo founded it in 1542, he named the area after the character in the novel. 

“Stories like this are featured in the museum and it’s needed,” said Utopia Hammond, a San Francisco resident who came to the grand opening. “People need to know our Black history and this museum features things and people that aren’t normally talked about and or featured in other museums.” 

People came from all over the country for the grand opening. They also got to watch the premiere of Nasheed’s new documentary film, “Black Maroon,” which looks at the Black maroons, who fought several Indian wars against the United States, just before the Civil War.  The show of support for the museum from Black people across the country, was sparked by Nasheed in 2021, when he decided there needed to be a Black museum in Los Angeles that focused on stories that hadn’t been told.  

“I decided to start this museum after I was driving down Crenshaw Boulevard and saw that people were using the site where Nipsey Hussle got shot and killed as a tourist attraction,” said Nasheed. “On any given day, you can see crowds of people taking pictures in front of the mural that has Nipsey’s face on it.” 

Hussle was a popular and emerging rap artist who was just coming into national acclaim when he was shot down in front of his clothing store March 31, 2019. He also was a local entrepreneur who pushed community development and owned an entire strip mall complex,  with a clothing store, barber shop, gas station and fast food restaurant. 

His death was one that still saddens the Los Angeles and the Hip Hop Black community, even after his killer was just sentenced to 60 years in prison. The makeshift Nipsey Hussle memorial and daily scene behind it pushed Nasheed to create a place where people can see positive affirmations of Black culture and tell the stories of Black history that aren’t told. 

“We need to create institutions that we as Black people and/or Black groups own so we can control the narrative,” said Nasheed.

Controlling the narrative is something Nasheed is used to. He produced and directed the highly successful “Hidden Colors” documentary series, which began in 2011. This five-part documentary series looks at Black history in the United States and across the world. It’s one of the highest selling Black documentaries ever. It has been shown in film festivals and movie theaters all over the country. Millions of copies of the film have also been sold in DVD or BlueRay, seen on Netflix, Amazon or on Nasheed’s own streaming service FBA stream.  

“The Black grassroots supported my vision and this effort.”

One of the stories told in Nasheed’s film “Hidden Colors” – and now in the Hidden History Museum – is the one of Biddy Mason, a former slave, who is known as the grandmother of Los Angeles. In the 1800s, she went from being a slave in California, to becoming one of the richest Black women in America, despite being illiterate. She was a real estate owner and a major philanthropist, who was a pillar in Black Los Angeles.   

Nasheed spent just under $2 million to open the Hidden History Museum. Half of the money was raised in a month by a Black grassroots crowdfunding effort Nahseed started, using his YouTube channel Tariq Radio and other social media platforms. This, along with some of his personal funds, were used to buy the building that houses the museum.  

“The Black grassroots supported my vision and this effort,” said Nasheed. “We wanted to have the museum over in Leimert Park, a Black district in LA, but when we tried to buy property, there were several roadblocks, before we got to Jefferson Park.”

He looked at three different sites for the museum, including the historic Black Leimert Park area, and he was close to closing in on one of the sites. But when word got out it was going to be a Black museum, the non-Black property owners reneged. He was finally able to get a location in the Jefferson Park area of Los Angeles, another historic Black neighborhood, seeing the effects of rampant gentrification.   

“It was great to see the foundational Black American community change the narrative and create this phenomenal project in the heart of the community,” said Shamika Sadler, a Los Angeles resident, who was at the event.  

“With the Hidden History museum, we have a place where Black people from all over the country can come to learn about history that isn’t talked about in the dominant society,” continued Nasheed. “We will also have various events and different exhibits at the museum throughout the year, which tell our story, and show the impact Black people have made in this country and all over the world.” 

The History Museum is located at 2131 W. Jefferson Blvd in Los Angeles, Calif. For information on hours, go to www.hiddenhistorymuseum.com

Lee Hubbard is a Bay Area journalist who earned his masters’ degree in journalism at Northeastern University. Well known to longtime Bay View readers, he can be reached at superle@sbcglobal.net.