Jonathan Kirsch reviewed Douglas Flamming's "Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (California)
Reviewer Kirsch, a contributing writer to the LA Times Book Review, calls this book about LA’s black community in the first half of the 20th Century. “A masterful and moving account” and “a solid work of scholarship.”
Flamming, a professor of history at Georgia Tech, writes that the founding families of LA were “colored in the European sense of the word” and that the majorities were “of Negro heritage, although not purely so…For the boosters, black and while alike, LA was ‘city called heaven.’” Blacks tended to do well in turn of the century LA and W.E.B. DuBois praised the city and its black inhabitants, which, notes Flamming, “was neither ghetto nor slum.” Even so, racism existed. Flamming quotes a black women writing in 1912: “You can’t bathe at the beaches, eat in any first-class place, nor will the street car and sight-seeing companies sell us tickets if they can possible help it.” In that year too the KKK arrived in the city.
According to Flamming, “The paradox was that things got better and worse at the same time, and for the same reasons.” He concludes: “LA then was what most cities in the US are now, a sprawling, multiracial place where the rules of the game and the hierarchies of power seemed always in flux.”
Los Angeles Times, January 2. 2005