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Street Meeting

Street Meeting: Multiethnic Neighborhoods in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles

Mark Wild
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 309
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  • Book Info
    Street Meeting
    Book Description:

    Immigrant neighborhoods of the early twentieth century have commonly been viewed as segregated, homogeneous slums isolated from the larger "American" city. But as Mark Wild demonstrates in this new study of Los Angeles, such districts often nurtured dynamic, diverse environments where residents interacted with individuals of other races and cultures. In fact, as his engaging account makes clear, between 1900 and 1940 such multiethnic areas mushroomed in Los Angeles.Street Meeting,enriched with oral histories, reminiscences, newspaper reports, and other sources, examines interactions among working-class Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, Jews, Italians, African Americans, and others, reminding us that Los Angeles has been a multiethnic city since its birth. This study further argues that these ethnic interactions played a crucial role in the urban development of the United States during the early decades of the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94176-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In August 1944 authorities at the Manzanar Relocation Center in the high desert of eastern California, where several thousand Japanese had been confined during World War II, made a strange discovery. Two years earlier a high school student named Ralph Lozo had registered for internment despite the fact that both his parents were of Mexican ancestry.¹ He had been living at Manzanar ever since. “My Japanese-American friends . . . were ordered to evacuate the West Coast, so I decided to go with them,” the unapologetic Lozo explained. “Who can say I haven’t got Japanese blood in me? Who knows...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Familiarity of “Foreign Quarters”: The Central Los Angeles Populace
    (pp. 9-37)

    Passengers arriving in Los Angeles by train around 1925 received an introduction to the city’s diverse working-class neighborhoods. Approaching downtown from the north, the train passed Lincoln Heights, a neighborhood of modest homes, shacks, small businesses, and “car shops” where Italians and Mexicans mixed in with a “poorer class of Americans.” From there it crossed the Los Angeles River, the major artery bisecting the districts where much of the city’s laborers resided. To the left, the industrial heart of the city fanned south along the banks of the river. Here was the manufacturing base of a booming metropolis that some...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Building the White Spot of America: The Corporate Reconstruction of Ethnoracial Los Angeles
    (pp. 38-61)

    Harry Chandler liked to call his adopted city the “white spot of America.” The bombastic publisher of theLos Angeles Times, a newspaper whose popularity waxed with Los Angeles’s economic fortunes, was referring most directly to what he perceived as intense local economic development unfettered by labor unrest. The phrase also alluded to a belief, widespread among Chandler’s circle, in the aesthetic, political, and moral purity of the city. Los Angeles, he insinuated, possessed none of the blight, decay, civic corruption, or criminal activity that plagued other urban areas.¹ But for others the term came to assume a third meaning...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Church of All Nations and the Quest for “Indigenous Immigrant Communities”
    (pp. 62-93)

    Sometime in 1927 G. Bromley Oxnam, the founder and first pastor of the Church of All Nations, granted an interview to a student researching the institution. In many ways Oxnam’s creation resembled the dozens of other missions, settlement homes, and Americanization programs that dotted the central neighborhoods of early-twentieth-century Los Angeles. Oxnam had founded All Nations under the auspices of the Methodist church in 1918 one block south of Skid Row in a church building abandoned, along with the increasingly diverse and proletarian district, by its middle-class Anglo parishioners. His timing had not been auspicious. World War I had unleashed...

  9. CHAPTER 4 “So Many Children at Once and So Many Kinds”: The World of Central City Children
    (pp. 94-120)

    Kango Kunitsugo grew up in the market district of Los Angeles during the Great Depression. In the streets near his home he played with African American, Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese boys. “I don’t think we ever consciously thought of being American or Japanese,” he recalled some decades later.

    Your home was another world. . . . I guess we formed a security island kind of thing. I remember days when there was only one non-minority family living on that block. A fellow named Thomas Stone was the only white living there. I guess because we were kids we never did...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Mixed Couples: Love, Sex, and Marriage across Ethnoracial Lines
    (pp. 121-147)

    Of the possible kinds of inter-ethnoracial contact in the central neighborhoods, those involving sexual or romantic relations perhaps prompted the most visceral reactions. Whether in the context of prostitution, dating, or marriage, they seemed to pose an immediate threat to established racial and ethnic communities. Historians have already chronicled the tremendous anxiety that afflicted Anglo-Americans during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when the movement of white women into the workforce and the growing population of nonwhites stoked fears of racial amalgamation. Crystallizing in fits of hysteria like the “white slave” panic, these anxieties resonated with broader concerns about...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Preaching to Mixed Crowds: Ethnoracial Coalitions and the Political Culture of Street Speaking
    (pp. 148-175)

    In the years before film, radio, and television enveloped mainstream American culture, public speaking was an important medium of political expression and entertainment in urban life. In cities across the United States, the harangues of soapbox politicians bled into the exhortations of religious zealots, the high-pitched cries of newsboys, and the verbalized, frequently melodious advertisements of street vendors to form the vocal contribution to the dissonance of the modern urban soundscape. These voices, rarely recorded, have largely been lost to historians, and one may dismiss a good portion of them as blunt commercial solicitations or the babblings of the mentally...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Streets Run Red: The Communist Party and the Resurgence of Coalition Street Politics
    (pp. 176-200)

    Sometime in the 1930s veteranLos Angeles Timesjournalist Timothy Turner penned a column titled “The Japanese Carpenter Who Got Religion.” The protagonist, “none too bright, even as honest Japanese carpenters go,” wanders into the “Sabbath Eve bedlam” at the plaza one day and becomes fascinated with the “cosmopolitan” crowds milling about. Despite his negligible English skills, he is drawn to a sharpdressed Salvation Army preacher who plays a trumpet in the midst of other orators. The carpenter returns the following weekend, sporting his own uniform and blowing his own trumpet, “which he had mastered to the extent of two...

  13. Conclusion. From Central Neighborhood to Inner City: The Triumph of Corporate Liberal Urbanization
    (pp. 201-210)

    On almost any level World War II was a watershed event in the history of Los Angeles. The bombing of Pearl Harbor unleashed a frenzy of development, from shipyards in Long Beach to steel factories in Fontana, which utterly transformed the region. City officials woke up to find defense plants clamoring for workers and reversed their decade-old harassment of Okies and Mexicans. The war had a similarly profound impact on the metropolitan population. In one fell stroke, the internment of Japanese Angelenos removed one of the city’s major ethnic communities. Little Tokyo metamorphosed, virtually overnight, into an African American neighborhood...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 211-264)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-282)
  16. Index
    (pp. 283-298)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)