Cover image for L.A. city limits : African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the present
L.A. city limits : African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the present
Sides, Josh, 1972-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiv, 288 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1600 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F869.L89 N4 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In 1964 an Urban League survey ranked Los Angeles as the most desirable city for African Americans to live in. In 1965 the city burst into flames during one of the worst race riots in the nation's history. How the city came to such a pass--embodying both the best and worst of what urban America offered black migrants from the South--is the story told for the first time in this history of modern black Los Angeles. A clear-eyed and compelling look at black struggles for equality in L.A.'s neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces from the Great Depression to our day, L.A. City Limits critically refocuses the ongoing debate about the origins of America's racial and urban crisis.

Challenging previous analysts' near-exclusive focus on northern "rust-belt" cities devastated by de-industrialization, Josh Sides asserts that the cities to which black southerners migrated profoundly affected how they fared. He shows how L.A.'s diverse racial composition, dispersive geography, and dynamic postwar economy often created opportunities--and limits--quite different from those encountered by blacks in the urban North.

Author Notes

Josh Sides is Assistant Professor of History at Cal Poly Pomona.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

While there is much written about the African American urban experience, few books look at cities west of the Mississippi River or take a multidisciplinary approach. Sides (California State Polytechnic Univ., Pomona) considers African Americans in South Central Los Angeles from the Depression to the present, while Trotter, Lewis, and Hunter gather essays from historians, sociologists, economists, and urban planners who look at urban blacks from the Colonial period to the present using historical, social scientific, and comparative approaches. The contributors examine how the development of slavery in the urban US shaped the later African American experience and focus on the perennial questions of race and gender, the Moynihan thesis, the importance of race relative to class in the 20th-century US, and the interaction between blacks and other subordinate groups, specifically addressing the seeming inability of blacks as a whole to improve their status. African Americans began moving to Los Angeles in large numbers during WW II to capitalize on the favorable economic climate, but segregation plagued people of color. Sides quotes one Oklahoma native who found that better wages and more jobs meant an improved standard of living in Los Angeles, but that uncertainty regarding race relations made the environment more tense. While many blacks improved their economic position with increased home ownership and greater geographic mobility, those who remained in poverty slipped further behind, indicating that both race and class are important determining factors. Sides also learned that in South Central, the African American population is now smaller than the Hispanic, and that the latter feels toward the former as blacks did toward whites 60 years ago. Both books add new perspectives on blacks and cities from several disciplines, and complement earlier books such as Robert Self's American Babylon (2003) and Kenneth W. Goings and Raymond A. Mohl, eds., The New African-American Urban History (1996). ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. R. Jamieson Ashland University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 African American Los Angeles Before World War II
2 The Great Migration and the Changing Face of Los Angeles
3 The Window of Opportunity: Black Work in Industrial Los Angeles, 1941-1964
4 Race and Housing in Postwar Los Angeles
5 Making the Modern Civil Rights Movement in Los Angeles
6 Black Community Transformation in the 1960s and 1970s
List of Captions