Oral Histories

Interview of Evelyn Reeves

Owner of First Security Investment Company, a real estate and property management company in Los Angeles.
Series:
"Where Do We Go from Here?" Histories of Long-term Black Business Ownership, Community, and Family in Los Angeles County
Topic:
Business
African American History
Interviewer:
Hester, Yolanda
Interviewee:
Reeves, Evelyn
Persons Present:
Reeves and Hester.
Place Conducted:
Evelyn Reeves’s office at First Security Investment Company in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Yolanda Hester, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; M.A., African American studies, UCLA. Hester prepared for the interview in this series by looking at a number of books and articles that examined Black business ownership in a historical context, as well as articles that examined it from a social science perspective and looked at current socioeconomic debates and findings. For the Reeves interview she also researched articles on First Security Investment, the Consolidated Realty Board, white flight, and racially restrictive covenants.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Reeves was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes. Session one was initially recorded as two sessions, with the first part being approximately three minutes long. The two sections have been merged into one continuous session.
Length:
2 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Series Statement:
This series documents long-term and multigenerational business ownership in the black community through oral history interviews with owners of businesses located in Los Angeles County. The title is inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, which The title is inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, which focused on economic issues, including issues related to black-owned businesses. Businesses were chosen to participate in the series based on two criteria: that the business had been in operation for at least twenty-five years and that it was currently active at the time of the interview. An effort was also made to ensure that the businesses selected represented a variety of sizes and industries. They range from small, local businesses with only a couple of employees to enterprises that have a regional and even national reach, and the industries represented include construction, real estate, insurance, communications, dry cleaning, restaurants and catering, mortuaries, barbershops, and stove repair. Due to limited resources and time constraints, the interviews focused primarily on businesses in the Pasadena area and in South Los Angeles, with selected businesses in Hollywood, Gardena, and downtown Los Angeles as well. South Los Angeles remains one of the most important centers of Black economic activity in the region, and the Pasadena area has historically been a final stop for many Blacks who migrated to Southern California. It is also important to note that although the series focused mostly on these two areas, the reach and customer base of these businesses span well beyond their local communities. The first section of each oral history covers the individual’s family and migration history. The second and third sections then examine each business from two perspectives: (1) the day-to-day functioning of the business, i.e., staffing, profit and losses, marketing, etc., and (2) broader businesses strategies, including responses to policy changes, technological development, demographic shifts, and changes in the economy. For reasons that included scheduling, health, and capacity issues, some of the business owners who were invited to be interviewed declined. Those businesses included Eso Won Books, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, Pete’s Foods Products, Winmax Construction Corporation, Beauchamp Distributing Company, and Gallery Plus. The UCLA Center for Oral History Research has also created a website that offers more context about black businesses in Los Angeles and includes numerous audio clips from this interview series. See https://www.library.ucla.edu/community-commerce-oral-histories-african-american-businesses-los-angeles
Birth and family background--Family buys home—Attending Los Angeles High School—Father purchases multi-unit property—Family moves to the west side—African American financing—College years—Working for Andre Vaughn—Getting real estate license—Real estate and racially restrictive covenants—Fair housing—Selling first house—Fair Housing Act.
Appointed to California Department of Real Estate—Rumford Act—White flight—Multiethnic relations—Becoming owner of First Security Investment Company—Tenants and rent control—Section 8 vouchers—Profits—Difficult tenants—Growth of staff—Promoting the business—Grooming a younger generation—City’s recycling program—Demographic changes and gentrification—The importance of Black business ownership.