Communist Party member Emil Freed founded the Southern California Library more than 50 years ago in a desperate move to save fiery leftist writings from McCarthyism. The library's mission, to collect records of the struggles for social justice in Los Angeles, now lives on in a vast former appliance warehouse in South L.A. More than 10,000 people — students, educators, writers, artists, activists and locals — visit the library each year to peruse books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, films, photographs and recordings. Topics range from the Watts Riots and the Chicano student walkouts to police abuse and labor-movement music. You can flip through one of L.A.'s first African-American newspapers, read 1970s prison correspondence or listen to a 1968 Martin Luther King recording, all in the same room. Known as the “social justice library,” the organization aims to serve its neighbors with community meeting rooms, free Wi-Fi and, most importantly, easy access to archives so that ordinary people can learn about other ordinary folk who fought for change. —Daina Beth Solomon
6120 S. Vermont Ave., Vermont-Slauson, 90044. (323) 759-6063, socallib.org.