Presently, the only museum in the United States dedicated to honoring the rich legacy of Blacks in fire safety, the African American Firefighter Museum (AAFM) is located at 1401 South Central Avenue in Los Angeles, California. Housed in Fire Station #30, the mission of the museum, as per its website, is “dedicated to collecting, conserving and sharing the heritage of African American Fire Fighters through collaboration and education.”
In celebrating the one-hundred years that African-American firefighters served Los Angeles, the AAFM opened in 1997. While it was originally believed that the first African-American firefighter served in 1897, the Los Angeles Times reported to the museum that, in fact, they discovered that the history began several years earlier. The newspaper informed the AAFM that Sam Haskins was the first fireman of African descent to be hired, in 1892, by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD); in 1895, he was killed while responding to a fire emergency.
Fire Station #30 was established in 1913 and its selection as the site of the museum is most appropriate. From 1924 until 1955, Fire Station #30 and Fire Station #14 were the two stations that housed Black firemen in Los Angeles. In the documentary, Engine Company X, the African American Firefighter Museum is saluted as “a monument to a civil rights movement that began within these walls.”
During the Great Migration, a mass movement of African-Americans from the rural South beginning in 1916, many settled in California. However, in numerous instances, the overt discrimination against and segregation of Blacks in the West were highly similar to that suffered in their previous southern environments. One of these environments was the workplace of the local government and, specifically, in the area of fire safety for those Blacks who settled in Los Angeles.