Lecture 22 - Central Avenue.doc - Lecture 22 u2013 Civil...

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Lecture 22 – Civil RightsPart One - Central Avenue “Paris is lovelyIt is beautifulIt is lush andWonderfulI would gladlyTrade itAllFor a cornerAt41stStreet and Central Ave.Discovered in a dusty cardboard box in the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research at 6120 S. Vermont Ave. was this 1944 Christmas card sent to his aunt Charlotta Spears Bass by John Kinloch, his fondness for Central Avenue expressed just a little more than three months beforeGerman shells would rip though his body and not quite six years removed from his valedictory addressto the 1939 graduating class of Polytechnic High School (since 1957 the site of LA Trade Tech). Charlotta Spears, Kinloch’s aunt, had herself arrived in Los Angeles in 1910 from Providence, Rhode Island, “for a two-year health-recuperation stay.” As she exited the Southern Pacific Depot, she found herself standing in the sun at the corner of 5thSt. and Central Avenue. To support herself, she foundpart-time employment at John Neimore’s Race paper, the California Eagle, located on Central Avenue near 5thSt. Neimore had been one of the earlier black residents of Los Angeles, having set up the city’s first black-owned newspaper in 1879. In 1880, just as the great land boom was to hit, the Afro-Angeleno population was barely 100. When the boom subsided in 1900, it had risen to 2000. As the boom rebounded, black Americans kept coming to Los Angeles. There were 7600 in 1910 and double that number, 15,500, in 1920. Almost all black immigrants to LA (as it came to be called around 1920) came here from the South, especially from the towns and cities of Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Contrary tothe perpetuated perception, they were not rural Southerners. If Charlotta Spears, coming from the Northeast, was the exception in that regard, her urban roots matched the vast majority of black Angelenos. That majority headed West rather than North because the “West” represented freedom and opportunity, especially in contrast to the infamous Jim Crow South, where the early 20thcentury saw an increase in mob violence that culminated in the Atlanta Riot of 1906. No western city had a black population comparable to Los Angeles. They did not refer to themselves as black, though. Their terminology ranged from Colored to Negro to Americans of African descent to, most commonly, Race (capital R) men and women. They saw themselves as “the better class of Negroes,” the right sort,” the “educated class,” that is as members of a middle-class (in their goals, their values, their behaviors) even iffew had middle-class wealth or professions. Most supported themselves in blue-collar occupations, but they turned out in fine clothes and solid numbers to attend their choice among Central Avenue’s cluster offifteen black churches and its various community organizations, such as the Afro-American Council and the Colored Women’s clubs. They were, as described by one historian, “joiners and strivers.” In short, they took pride in the community that they created in Los Angeles. The heart of that

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