#TBT South LA: Church mothers, circa 1960

"Church Mothers" stand outside the First AME Church in South LA, circa 1960. | USC Digital Library

“Church Mothers” stand outside the First AME Church in South LA, circa 1960. | USC Digital Library

For many generations, churches have been integral to the character of South Los Angeles. The First African Methodist Episcopal stands as an example.

Dressed in “Sunday best” attire, the 16 women are pictured standing in front of the First AME, or simply “FAME.” The photograph is from the 1960s.

Founded in 1872, FAME is the city’s oldest African-American church. Before the 1970s, the church had a population of 250 congregants. It now boasts a congregation of about 19,000 members and is considered a mega-church with task forces for health, substance abuse and homelessness issues.

When this photograph was taken, the majority of residents living in the community around the church were African-American. Now, the once-predominately Black area of South Los Angeles is now two-thirds Hispanic, according to a report from the University of Southern California in partnership with the Community Coalition — and the church populations represent this demographic shift.

Rev. Dr. Cecil Murray, the senior pastor of FAME for 27 years until 2004, says the change in ethnic makeup of South L.A.’s churches has brought both rewards and challenges.

“We’re one world when it comes to talking to each other and we should not allow people’s differences to make a difference,” said Murray. “That’s the challenge of the church in the 21st century.”

FAME is located at 2270 S. Harvard Boulevard.

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