Spend the Day Touring These Black Hollywood Landmarks
By Danielle Dorsey
Hollywood is known for being the movie capital of the world, but it hasn’t always been welcoming to Black hopefuls. The pioneers who ventured west in the early 20th century broke down racial barriers and had a hand in introducing audiences around the world to the diversity of Black talent. It was their work that paved the way for other disenfranchised groups to fight for on-screen representation.
Unfortunately, the contributions of Black Hollywood are still not widely celebrated in the industry, or even included on most Hollywood tours. We suggest renting a car and doing a self-guided tour of these Black Hollywood landmarks:
Hattie McDaniel’s grave at Angelus Rossdale Cemetery
Hattie McDaniel is well-known for being the first African American to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy in the classic film “Gone With The Wind.” What many don’t know is that McDaniel was also a Civil Rights Activist who campaigned to end redlining in the wealthy Sugar Hill district where she had land.
McDaniel wanted to be buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, but the grounds weren’t integrated at the time of her passing, so she was given a grave at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, which happens to be the first integrated lawn cemetery in Los Angeles. McDaniel’s final resting place can be found near the entrance and is marked with a flat headstone.
Marvin Gaye’s more famous residence is the home that he bought on South Gramercy Place for his parents where, in 1984, the singer-songwriter died from gunshot wounds inflicted by his own father.
Prior to Gaye’s final days were the happier times of the 1970s when he lived in the Hollywood Hills with then-wife Anna Gordy (sister of the Motown hitmaker Berry Gordy). The two bought a 1.5-acre ranch that Anna continued to hold ownership of until 2012. The property was re-listed for sale at the beginning of this year.
Gaye was well known for his friendly demeanor and liked to walk around the neighborhood and mingle. Queue up one of his classic soul songs for your drive through the hills.
And if spooky Hollywood sights are more your style, you can visit Gaye’s parents’ former home at 2101 S Gramercy Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90018.
Nat King Cole Residence
“Unforgettable” singer Nat King Cole and his wife Maria were the first Blacks to integrate the then “Whites Only” neighborhood of Hancock Park when they bought their Tudor style mansion in 1948. Cole’s real estate agent had a light-skinned woman purchase the home and transfer the deed to Cole. When the Hancock housing association found out they offered to buy the home back from Cole “with a little profit,” to which he responded, “If you give me a million dollars, I’ll leave the country.”
Cole ended up staying in the home until his death in 1965. His wife Anna remained there until the early 1970s.
Visitors should be careful not to disturb the current tenants, but the home can be found at 401 South Muirfield Road, Los Angeles, CA if you’re interested in walking or driving by.
Get your steps in while you peruse the popular drag where Hollywood’s most famous names are immortalized on the sidewalk. Make a game out of it and look for the names of your favorite Black performers. You’ll spot stars that celebrate the talents of crooner Louis Armstrong, boxer Muhammad Ali, along with Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, and so many more.
Hollywood’s popular Walk of Fame takes you past the famous El Capitan and Pantages theaters, Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, and other Tinseltown landmarks.
Banks Mansion from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
Every 90’s kid is familiar with the stark white mansion that a young Will Smith pulls in front of in the opening credits of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. While this location wasn’t used for regular filming, it’s become one of the most recognizable aspects of the show. Depending on when you visit the home might be shrouded by trees, but it’s still a worthwhile place to check off your bucket list. The public address is 251 North Bristol Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90049.