Black L.A. 1947: Meet the Honor Students of Jefferson High

Jan. 9, 1947, Jefferson High Students

Jan. 9, 1947, Los Angeles Sentinel

Jan. 9, 1947: The Sentinel publishes the photos of four Jefferson High students on the front page: Florence Smith, Ivan Baldwin, Gen Lew and Walter Richard Lumpkin.

Jan. 9, 1947, Los Angeles Sentinel

Jan. 9, 1947, Los Angeles Sentinel

Here we meet four young people — and a significant research challenge: What became of them? A story inside the Sentinel said that the four Jefferson High students were members of or Ephebians, the school’s honor society. But beyond that, the trail is quite cloudy.

Note: For those who just tuned in, we’re going to reboot the concept of the 1947project (founded by Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak) by going day by day through 1947 – but using the Los Angeles Sentinel, an African American weekly, rather than the very white and very conservative Los Angeles Times. We promise you an extremely different view of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Public Library

(The historic Los Angeles Sentinel is available online from the Los Angeles Public Library. We encourage anyone with a library card to delve into the back issues and explore the history of black L.A.


Did Florence Smith become an actress? We know that in 1947 she received a scholarship award given to Los Angeles high school students. Her name is a bit too common to be certain, but she apparently had a role in a scene from “The Trial of Mary Dugan,” given by the Donahoo Workshop Players in December 1947. She apparently played a scene from “Othello” at a dinner party in 1949. But was she the Florence Smith who married Rodger Terrell in 1950? Did she appear in the 1954 performance of “Detective Story” at the Ebony Showcase? We can’t be sure.

And what of Ivan Baldwin, who wanted to be an accountant? Was he a spokesman for the South Central Organizing Committee, which was trying to close down Payton Liquor Store at 1650 W. Adams in 1984? The South Central Organizing Committee said the store was a gathering place for drug dealers and prostitutes, and fostered crime.

Of Gen Lew, we find nothing. Did she become a doctor or flier? Was she accepted to UCLA? We simply don’t know.

Walter Lumpkin is identified as the Jefferson High class president, and he attended a reunion in 1992. But was he the Walter Lumpkin who was a warden at San Diego’s Metropolitan Correctional Center? The amount of digging needed to answer these simple questions is, alas, far beyond the scope of this blog. We’re hoping someone can fill in some answers.


Los Angeles Sentinel, Jan. 9, 1947./

Jan. 29, 1948, Los Angeles Sentinel

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Education, Stage and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Black L.A. 1947: Meet the Honor Students of Jefferson High

  1. jerrycronin says:

    I appreciate you featuring the news of 1947 from the Los Angeles Sentinel that includes information about the black community in that time period as well as the music. It was a treat to listen to music that I grew up with. .

    Liked by 1 person

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