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Before Barack Obama, There was Tom Bradley

Thirty-five years before Barack Obama's election as President, the question of race and the possibility of bridging racial and ethnic barriers was put to a test in an overlooked and untold story in American politics:  The 1973 election of Tom Bradley, the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city with an ovewhelmingly white population.

Tom Bradley was an extraordinary politician who redefined and reconfigured Los Angeles. He was Mayor for an unprecedented twenty years, City Councilman for ten years and served as a police officer for twenty-one years. He opened City Hall and commission positions to women and minorities, created the first ever profitable Olympics, brought an historically abusive police department under civilian control, and transformed Los Angeles into one of the most diversified and important cities in the world.

Tom Bradley laid the groundwork for multi-ethnic coalitions unsurpassed until the election of President Barack Obama.  We believe that the story of Tom Bradley's life, incredible achievements and legacy should not be forgotten.

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Academy Award nominated filmmaker Lyn Goldfarb and Emmy Award winner Alison Sotomayor


Major Sponsors

National Endowment for the Humanities

California Council for the HumanititesW. K. Kellogg Foundation

Ralph M. Parsons FoundationCalifornia Community Foundation

City of Los AngelesLos Angeles Department of Water and Power



Photographs in the Gallery and throughout this website are courtesy of the Tom Bradley Legacy Foundation, the California African American Museum, the personal collections of the Tom Bradley family, and Tom Bradley staff members including Phil Depoian, Adrian Dove, Bee Canterbury Lavery, Craig Lawson, Wilfred Marshall, Jeff Matsui, Wanda Moore, and Bill Raphiel.