(LOS ANGELES, Sept. 16, 2008) – The motorcycles popularized in “Easy Rider,” innovations in the look and performance of motorcycles, and the emergence of female motorcycle riders all have origins in the African-American motorcycle culture.
“Black Chrome,” an exhibit at the California African-American Museum running from Sept. 25 to April 12 and sponsored by the Automobile Club of Southern California, highlights these and other contributions of African-American riders to their communities and to the automotive culture of California.
The exhibit includes historical and current photos, as well as restored and custom motorcycles showing the rise of the African-American bike culture in California just after World War II.
“After serving in the military during the war, many African-American veterans returned home with mechanical skills that they applied to building, modifying and tinkering with motorcycles,” said Auto Club Historian Matthew Roth, Ph.D. “Their influence continues to this day through custom bike fabricators. In the community, the African-American motorcycle culture has left its mark through motorcycle clubs such as Buffalo Soldiers, the LA Defiant Ones, East Bay Dragons, The Magnificent Seven, Rare Breed and a host of others that, besides riding, also perform charity work.”
“Black Chrome provides an invaluable opportunity to gain a broader understanding of the contributions African Americans have made to motorcycle culture, mechanical technology and aesthetics,” said Christopher Jimenez y West Ph.D., CAAM History Curator. . “Through photos, interviews, and motorcycles that range from choppers to drag bikes, Black Chrome spotlights the innovations and creativity that altered the landscape of American motorcycling and gives an in-depth glimpse into this growing and little documented segment of African American culture.”
The exhibit highlights innovators like Ben Hardy, who designed both the Captain America and the Billy Bike models used in the iconic motorcycle movie “Easy Rider.” It also details the achievements of Judge Homer L. Garrott, the first black CHP officer and Rickey Gadson, a world champion drag bike racer.
The California African American Museum is located at 600 State Drive in Exposition Park and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and parking is $6. The museum is handicapped accessible throughout. The museum will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest member of the AAA federation of motor clubs, has been providing service since 1900. Today, the Auto Club’s members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club’s Web site at http://www.aaa.com/