Bridges of Reform: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in by Shana Bernstein

By Shana Bernstein

In her first publication, Shana Bernstein reinterprets U.S. civil rights activism through taking a look at its roots within the interracial efforts of Mexican, African, Jewish, and eastern americans in mid-century la. increasing the body of historic research past black/white and North/South, Bernstein unearths that significant household activism for racial equality continued from the Nineteen Thirties in the course of the Fifties. She stresses how this coalition-building used to be facilitated by way of the chilly conflict weather, as activists sought safety and legitimacy during this conservative period. Emphasizing the numerous connections among ethno-racial groups and among the us and international opinion, Bridges of Reform demonstrates the long term function western towns like l. a. performed in shaping American race relatives.

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What had been little more than a small western town grew in the late nineteenth century into an increasingly important population and business center. The Southern Pacific Railroad completed the first transcontinental connection to the city through San Francisco in 1876, and the Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1886, linking Los Angeles with eastern markets. Lured by railroad promoters and other land speculators, many people, particularly native-born white Americans, flocked to the region. The city’s population increased fourfold in the 1880s, from 11,183 in 1880 to 50,395 in 1890, a rate of growth higher than any other city in the country at the time.

While African Americans stopped moving to cities like Chicago, New York, and Detroit during the Depression, their presence in Los Angeles grew throughout the decade, by 67 percent. This represented a higher growth than in the 1920s. The Jewish population almost doubled from 1930 to 1941. 7 Other minority groups in the city remained relatively stable, such as Asian-origin populations, while the Mexican and Mexican-American community declined. The Asian population had largely stagnated in earlier decades because of restrictive immigration legislation, and increased only slightly during the 1930s due to natural population increase.

In other words, the Depression both heightened minorities’ awareness of racial discrimination and increased their possibilities for collaborative political mobilization, specifically through the New Deal, Communist Party, and labor unions. THE NEW DEAL’S NEW OPTIONS Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and his newly energized Democratic Party, which rose to power on a wave of frustration with the former Republican administration’s laissez-faire approach as the global Depression spread across the country and world after 1929, gave underrepresented minority populations in Los Angeles a new avenue to express themselves politically.

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