Four young people - Larry Janss, Win McCormack, Anne Mendel and Sarah Pillsbury - had the guts and vision to launch this experiment. They invented an organization that would underwrite the delicate and difficult work of long-term social change by investing in grassroots community organizing and leadership. Liberty Hill raised expectations and eyebrows.
Since then organizing and advocacy powered by Liberty Hill has changed national policies, launched movements, transformed neighborhoods, and nurtured hundreds of outstanding local leaders.
In 1980, we were first to fund dockworkers suffering from White Lung disease. Our support sparked the national movement to regulate asbestos and win compensation for millions of exposed workers.
In 1994, we were first to fund a movement for living wages. Our early investment sparked new laws that raised wages for 25,000 poverty-wage workers and moved them across the poverty line. Our continued investments have won wage increases for hotel workers, taxi drivers, grocery workers, garment workers and other hardworking men and women.
In 1996, Liberty Hill was first to fund L.A.'s new environmental justice movement. Every Californian breathes easier as a result. We've won millions in pollution reduction programs, as well as new regulations to protect the health of Californians most exposed to pollution's deadly consequences.
In the first decade of the new millenium, our long-term investments in student-led school reform resulted in an L.A. Unified School District commitment to overhaul course offerings at L.A.’s lowest-performing schools. Without Liberty Hill, thousands of students would continue to graduate from high school without the courses required for college admission.
Read about Liberty Hill's investment in women's rights since the day our doors opened.>>
Read about Liberty Hill's investment in The DREAM Act long before it reached the halls of Congress.>>
Read about Liberty Hill's recent investments in grassroots leaders working to expand equality and opportunity in L.A.>>
Why the name "Liberty Hill"?
In 1923, Upton Sinclair, legendary muckraking journalist and author of The Jungle, was arrested for reading the U.S. Constitution at a labor rally on Liberty Hill in San Pedro.
Waterfront employers were battling union organizing efforts, jailing leaders and denying work to union sympathizers. A rally was called to free union organizers and protest company tactics, and the famous writer was asked to speak in support of the strike.
In his book Southern California: An Island on the Land, Carey McWilliams recounts the following: "On the night of the meeting, Liberty Hill was black with the massed figures of the strikers. Mounting a platform illuminated by a lantern, Mr. Sinclair proceeded to read from Article One of the Constitution . . . and was promptly the first of 600 arrested that night. A few days later, all but 28 of the 600 strikers were released and, in effect, the strike had been won."
In 1976, four young activists from wealthy families, inspired by Sinclair and the story of Liberty Hill, pooled their resources and created a foundation bearing that name. For nearly 40 years, the Liberty Hill Foundation has honored the memory and legacy of Upton Sinclair by supporting grassroots organizations dedicated to building a fair, compassionate and just society.