Black Los Angeles

American Dreams and Racial Realities

448 pages

43 illustrations

April, 2010

ISBN: 9780814737347



Also available in


Darnell Hunt is Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and Professor of Sociology at UCLA. He is the editor or author of numerous books, including Channeling Blackness: Studies on Television and Race in America and Screening the Los Angeles “Riots:“ Race, Seeing, and Resistance.

All books by Darnell Hunt

Ana-Christina Ramón is Assistant Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and a social psychologist.

All books by Ana-Christina Ramon

Los Angeles is well-known as a temperate paradise with expansive beaches and mountain vistas, a booming luxury housing market, and the home of glamorous Hollywood. During the first half of the twentieth century, Los Angeles was also seen as a mecca for both African Americans and a steady stream of migrants from around the country and the world, transforming Los Angeles into one of the world’s most diverse cities. The city has become a multicultural maze in which many now fear that the political clout of the region’s large black population has been lost. Nonetheless, the dream of a better life lives on for black Angelenos today, despite the harsh social and economic conditions many confront.

Black Los Angeles is the culmination of a groundbreaking research project from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA that presents an in-depth analysis of the historical and contemporary contours of black life in Los Angeles. Based on innovative research, the original essays are multi-disciplinary in approach and comprehensive in scope, connecting the dots between the city’s racial past, present, and future. Through historical and contemporary anecdotes, oral histories, maps, photographs, illustrations, and demographic data, we see that Black Los Angeles is and has always been a space of profound contradictions. Just as Los Angeles has come to symbolize the complexities of the early twenty-first-century city, so too has Black Los Angeles come to embody the complex realities of race in so-called “colorblind” times.

Contributors: Melina Abdullah, Alex Alonso, Dionne Bennett, Joshua Bloom, Edna Bonacich, Scot Brown, Reginald Chapple, Lola Smallwood Cuevas, Andrew Deener, Regina Freer, Jooyoung Lee, Mignon R. Moore, Lanita Morris, Neva Pemberton, Steven C. Pitts, Carrie Petrucci, Gwendelyn Rivera, Paul Robinson, M. Belinda Tucker, Paul Von Blum, Mary Weaver, Sonya Winton, and Nancy Wang Yuen.


  • “It’s a deeper, better work of scholarship that wades into the history of this city, some of that history hundreds of years old, as a way of making sense of not just the present but the future as well. This wide sweep of Los Angeles history, and the role that black Americans played in its evolution at every level, is what sets this collection of supple, trenchant essays apart.”

    —Michael E. Ross,

  • “The book brings together the research interests of what Hunt describes as an ‘all‒star team’ of contributors, most but not all of them academics with strong California connections. Comprising 17 short to medium‒length essays, it pivots from data‒rich analyses of how the black community’s 20th century demographic center gradually has shifted from Central Avenue to Leimert Park, to interview‒driven, anecdotal accounts of the rise and decline of Venice’s Oakwood neighborhood and a revealing chronicle of the black‒owned SOLAR (Sounds of Los Angeles Records), a late ‘70s‒early ‘80s hit‒making machine for groups including the Whispers, Shalamar and Klymaxx.”

    —Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times

  • "[T]his is an excellent book....Inside are studies of one specific city, but with applicability to African American urban communities nationwide."

    —John H. Barnhill, Journal of African American History

  • “A true masterwork of urban studies. Taken together, these wide-ranging, diverse, original essays significantly expand our understanding of the African-American experience in Los Angeles. With breathtaking scope and vision, Black Los Angeles is a brilliant example of cutting-edge scholarship and a powerful corrective to the enduring image of a city of drive-by shootings and low-rise projects.”

    —Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams

  • “These beautifully-written essays cover the grit of everyday life (family, gangs, gays), cultural magic (art, music, media), and political action (labor, education, and environment). The diversity of perspectives and eight-year commitment by scholars and community collaborators make this a one-of-a-kind collection. The result is a realistic and uplifting portrayal. Anyone who wants to understand Los Angeles and Black America needs to read this book—now.”

    —Michael Dear, author of The Postmodern Urban Condition

  • "To offset the notion that twenty-first century America is a "colorblind society," Black Los Angeles construes "black" as having more to do with power and politics than with natural features . . . The pyschological and sociological perspectives of many contributors present aspects of contemporary black life that historians often overlook and that future works of history should include."

    —Lawrence B. de Graaf, Journal of American History

  • "Black Los Angeles provides a telling tale about the need to examine the racial processes that impact Black urban communities."

    —Clovis L. White, Du Bois Review

  • "Overall, this is an excellent book."

    Journal of African American History