Watts and West Adams
Last class we looked at the history of how LA was founded, its original name, a map of the South LA, and a breakdown of the people in the area. Today, we will look at the neighborhoods of Watts and West Adams in more detail.
Watts was founded in 1910 as a separate city. It was originally home to Blacks, whites, Asians, and immigrants from Europe and Mexico. At this time, there were only 15,000 Blacks in all of LA. LA had one of the highest rates of home ownership for Blacks and Latinos in the United States. This attracted more Blacks and Latinos to come to LA in search of buying a house. This also led to housing laws in the 1920s. Laws that separated sections of LA by race came into effect and limited Blacks to Watts and the Northern part of South Central. It also limited the housing of Asians and Mexicans.
In the 1940s, huge waves of Blacks and whites from the South migrated to Los Angeles. After World War II began, there were many jobs available in LA. Most of these jobs consisted of building ships and weapons for the war. Most of the Asian population of Watts was Japanese and were forced into internment camps. Many Blacks and whites from the South settled in South LA. Again, Blacks could only live in Watts and the area North of Watts. These two areas consisted of only 5% of the city.
The area quickly became an overcrowded ghetto where only Black people lived. Initially, most people had jobs that supported the war. In fact, Jordon Downs and Imperial Courts housing projects were originally built to house the ship workers. After the war, Watts faced terrible unemployment. At the same time, people from the South continued to come to Watts for a better life. This led to feelings of hopelessness and disappointment. In 1955, Nickerson Gardens was built due to unemployment and poverty in the area. Many were very frustrated. There were three bus lines in Watts and none of them led to major business areas were people could get jobs. The nearest hospital was 2 hours away. All of these frustrations blew up in the Watts Riots of 1965, which we will look at in detail next class.
The Watts Riots scared many whites out of South LA. The Westside of South Central, Inglewood, and Compton all lost major white populations. It also scared many middle-class Black people. They quickly moved into these areas. Many wealthy Black people went to West Adams after the riots. Wealthy Blacks had begun to move into West Adams in the 1920s. Many more moved there after the riots.
In the 1970s there was another major migration. Ladera Heights and Baldwin Hills desegregated in the 1970s. Many wealthy Black families moved out of West Adams. This is also when many of the large houses in West Adams were divided up into apartments for Latino immigrants and USC students. We will learn more about recent immigration and USC later in the unit.