Val Verde’s Role in Black History: Black Palm Springs!

February 28, 2022

Val Verde CA has a very special history; one we’re featuring in this writing in honor of Black History Month. AMS also has its own history with Val Verde as well, and that gives us even more enjoyment in recognizing this community and its story.

The Val Verde community is much appreciated by AMS. First, we appreciate our employees who come from Val Verde; there have been, and are now, more than a few. Also, over the years AMS has been closely involved with the Val Verde youth and families. Retired executive and current AMS Consultant, Ken Wiseman, is a long-time supporter of the Val Verde Sheriff’s Foundation. This relationship has allowed AMS to provide jobs for at-risk youth (excellent employees) over the years. AMS has also supported the Sheriff’s Department “adopt a family” program for many years. Those stories can be found at the AMS Fulfillment blog.

The stories of Val Verde are important to Black History, as back in the 1930s and ‘40s it was one of the few locations where Black people could buy homes and property and build a community. A recent article from ABC7 quotes several early residents of the community including Timothy Williams, Val Verde historian. They describe enjoyable childhoods in a serene community known as the “Black Palm Springs.”

The article states: “The main park became a gathering place for the community. It’s where they held dances, beauty contests selecting Miss Val Verde and a lot of other activities for both young and old. Including an Olympic size swimming pool.” Mr. Williams, who grew up in Val Verde in the 1950s and still lives in the community, continued with his memories: “Every Friday night we would have a drop in right here at the park dancing for the kids 12 13, 14 to learn all the new dances.”

An article at the SCV History website goes more deeply into the evolution of this cherished place for recreation, development and home ownership for Black Americans at a time when such a haven was truly needed: “The first half of this century was a sad time for many Angelenos. Black-owned businesses were torched. Blacks couldn’t use most beaches or public swimming pools, let alone compete with whites for high-paying jobs. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the courts finally struck down restrictive covenants that prevented blacks from owning real estate in certain areas of Los Angeles. For many, the only opportunity for recreation or self-expression came in a weekend jaunt to a part of the Santa Clarita Valley that provided refuge from the big city.”

That community was our own Val Verde. The article goes on to describe the development of the community and the participation of Black professionals including Hattie McDaniel and James Earl Jones, who raised thoroughbred horses on a ranch nearby. The creators of the community put love into it. It was a prosperous, enjoyable, beautiful place to live, and a beautiful place to enjoy recreation for a people who faced rejection elsewhere.

The article explains how things began to change in the 1960s. “The civil rights revolution of the 1960s created new opportunities for blacks in Los Angeles and changed the face of Val Verde forever. People who had used Val Verde as a weekend or summer retreat now established neighborhoods where they had not previously felt at home. Val Verde lost much of its special raison d’etre. But even as its pace slowed and its racial makeup changed, Val Verde retained a sense of community that rivals any other in the Santa Clarita Valley.”

At AMS we certainly have seen the sense of community in Val Verde, and we have participated in it as well. The history of the community, as a place of refuge in which to be oneself, without fear, is a precious legacy and a wonderful example of the creativity, spirit and strength of Black people – a “happening place” at a time when the people truly needed such a place.