Miriam Matthews was a librarian, historian, and art collector. She was the first African American librarian to be hired by the Los Angeles Public Library.
Matthews was born on August 6, 1905, in Pensacola Florida. At the age of two, her family relocated to Los Angeles. After completing high school, Matthews earned her B.A. degree and librarianship certificate from the University of California in 1926. She later earned her Master’s degree in library science from the Unversity of Chicago in 1945.
Matthews organized an extensive collection of materials on the history of Blacks in California. In 1929, she helped organize an observance of Negro History Week. In addition to organizing book clubs and lectures for library visitors, she became well known for encouraging local Black artists. In 1950, she co-founded the Associated Artists Gallery. She also helped document the city’s multiracial origins, which resulted in the Pobladores monument placed in El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park Plaza. The Pobladores Monument list each name, race, age, and sex of the forty four founders that included 26 blacks, 16 Indians, and two whites.