Little Tokyo and Bronzeville

I am an LA native with a definite penchant for Los Angeles history and so I was surprised to stumble upon this little piece of Little Tokyo history that I wasn't familiar with. In honor of Black History Month, Los Angeles Magazine tells the tale of Biddy Mason, one of the first African-Americans to own property in Los Angeles in the late 19th century. She went on purchase additional land in Little Tokyo which she sold to other black Angelinos who did not have a lot of housing options due to racial barriers. 

WWII saw the internment of many Japanese-Americans which left Little Tokyo pretty decimated. Some African-American Angelinos, still struggling to find decent homes in a city that wasn't always welcoming, made their way to what was now a nearly empty Little Tokyo. Living conditions were hardly amazing, but "a non-discriminatory job market, actions by the local authorities, and small advances in civil rights carried the new black community forward." The neighborhood was dubbed Bronzeville, largely noted for the all-night jazz clubs and wide assortment of black-owned businesses. The slogan "This is Bronzeville. Watch us grow!" poignantly shows the hope and potential many saw in this new neighborhood.

Despite this hope, Bronzeville was plagued by overcrowding and unhealthful conditions during most of it's existence. And of course, the end of WWII meant the return of many of Little Tokyo's previous tenants. What could have been a bitter ending turned into a tale of African-Americans and Japanese-Americans working together to find employment and housing and doing their best to support each other in a country that could be very harsh for minorities. 

 

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