Uncover little-known facts about Black America at this new LA museum

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Angie Perrin

Biddy Mason was born enslaved in the southern U.S., was moved to California by a plantation owner, and later won her freedom. She bought prime real estate in what’s now downtown LA, became immensely wealthy, and helped many Angelenos. Credit: Security Pacific National Bank Photo Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.

This Monday is Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the freedom of enslaved African Americans. June 19, 1865, was when enslaved people in Texas were freed — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. 

To learn more about Black history, visitors can visit the Hidden History Museum, which opened in March. Located in South LA on Jefferson Boulevard, this museum was crowdfunded, earning more than $1 million.

The museum’s founder, Tariq Nasheed, tells KCRW that he previously worked on documentaries about untold Black history, so he already had knowledge and artifacts for a museum. Then one day, he drove down Crenshaw Boulevard and saw many people going to the death site of rapper Nipsey Hussle, using it as a tourist attraction.

“I realized that in that area, it's still a very active gang area. So it's somewhat dangerous for tourists to go to openly. So I wanted to create a space where people could come down, learn about Black culture, learn about the culture of Los Angeles, learn about hip-hop culture from the West Coast, and do it in a safe place. So that was the initial thing,” he explains. 

He then started crowdfunding with Indiegogo and “threw out a number” — 1 million in a month. “Lo and behold, we actually raised over $1 million in one month. And that's when the Hidden History Museum was born.”

How did he raise the funds so quickly? “It shows a lot of people are very thirsty. And they're wanting and longing for this type of knowledge. Because we actually don't really have anything as far as Black history from a grassroots perspective.”

In the museum, one section is dedicated to Jim Crow memorabilia, and another area highlights unknown inventions by Black people, such as doorknobs, the modern toilet, and the modern refrigerator.

Visitors also learn about biochemistry creator George Washington Carver; Black men who stole slave ships and turned them into pirate ships; Biddy Mason, who gained freedom from slavery and then became a wealthy real estate baron and “the grandmother of LA;” and others.