Los Angeles’s History of Blacks and Latinos

Op-Ed: L.A.’s history of Latino-Black political conflict? It’s a curiously short tale

The following Op-Ed by Ricardo Tresguerres, the author of “Mexican-Black History: A Brief History of Latinos in California, 1950-2000,” was originally published in the Los Angeles Times, Aug. 26, 2014, and is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

L.A.’s history of Latinos and Blacks is strangely short. We’ve got a few exceptions: A Black mayor or two (the first in L.A.’s history) was elected to a citywide position, and Latinos have had more than their share of elected officials — in local and state government — over the years.

But for much of L.A.’s history, race relations and civil rights were ignored or downplayed, as they were in most cities. The city’s long history of exclusion and segregation — beginning with Los Angeles’ annexation into the state of California (1881) and its incorporation as a municipality (1885) — was reflected in the city’s incorporation as a city that year.

“The incorporation of Los Angeles, 1885, was the first step taken by African-Americans to live and work in a separate city,” wrote Robert St. John in “The First L.A. African-Americans: A Documentary History of Black Political Activism in the City of Angels” in 1999. “The next step was a federal court’s order that Los Angeles maintain a segregated public housing stock — Black and white — for more than a decade.”

And yet, in the early 20th century — in the years before the L.A. Times and other Southern newspapers began documenting Black/Latino political conflict in earnest — the city was described as “the most segregated city in America.”

In the midst of these segregation issues

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