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Hotel Somerville owners John Somerville and Vada Watson Somerville, along with investors, at the hotel groundbreaking, 1928
The UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research (COHR) has released the website, “Community and Commerce: Oral Histories of African American Businesses in Los Angeles,” which features a series of eighteen oral histories conducted by COHR that document long-term African American business ownership in the Los Angeles area. The site uses excerpts from the oral histories and contemporary and historic photos to explore the financial and psychological challenges involved in starting up a business, the difficulties of weathering change over decades, and the sometimes challenging task of finding a successor. It also situates the narrators’ lives and businesses in the larger story of black Los Angeles, offering perspectives on the changing realities of historically black neighborhoods, the Great Migration, and the role businesses have played in African American political and social life.
Read a short interview with the project interviewer, Yolanda Hester, about the rationale for the project and the experience of doing the interviews.