Donor Activism,Philanthropy

LA Times Article on Upton Sinclair & Liberty Hill Protest Centennial

May 25, 2023
By Courtney Kassel

In case you missed it, check out this recent LA Times article about activist Upton Sinclair featuring Liberty Hill‘s co-founder, Sarah Pillsbury, reflecting on her inspiration for starting Liberty Hill Foundation more than 40 years ago!

In 1976, the bicentennial year, philanthropist and activist Sarah Pillsbury co-founded the Liberty Hill Foundation here. She was living in the East when she read liberal author Carey McWilliams’ book, “An Island on the Land,” about Southern California as the place on the edge of history, and she agreed. “I felt if real change was going to happen in this country, it had to pass through Los Angeles. And I liked the Beach Boys.”

For the foundation, it wasn’t enough to redistribute wealth, “but you have to redistribute the power.”

“Back then, 90% of the giving in L.A. was to bricks and mortar. If you couldn’t chisel your name on it, [charities] didn’t want to do it.”

From the outset, the foundation asked community groups and activists what they needed to make their work effective, “challenging the power structures that affected their lives.”

So the foundation made grants to Mothers of East L.A. and to Compton citizens’ groups trying to stop toxic sites, to locals trying to get open space in poor neighborhoods. They made grants to groups helping homeless women, to grassroots drug abuse programs and living wage campaigns and to work for accessible banking.

Pillsbury visited the Liberty Hill site in 1998, for the event’s 75th anniversary. There’s a state historic marker there, and, on the spot where, in May 1923, free speech was criminalized, an official government building — the Port of Los Angeles Liberty Hill Plaza.

To read the full article, click here.