South Central Los Angeles

From Academic Kids


South Central Los Angeles (often called simply South Central) is a large geographic and cultural area lying to the south and southwest of downtown Los Angeles, California. While the name South Central derives from the neighborhood's historical core along south Central Avenue, the neighborhood is generally considered to cover most of the area of the City of Los Angeles south of the Santa Monica Freeway and east of the San Diego Freeway, including neighborhoods such as West Adams, Watts, Leimert Park and Crenshaw.

South Central contains some of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, featuring many spectacular examples of Victorian and Craftsman architecture in West Adams. It is home to the University of Southern California, founded in 1880. The 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games took place near the USC campus at neighboring Exposition Park, which hosts the Los Angeles Coliseum. Until the rise of the Wilshire Boulevard corridor refocused Los Angeles' development to the west of downtown in the 1920s, West Adams was one of the most desirable areas of the city.

At the same time that well-to-do whites were building stately mansions in West Adams and Jefferson Park, the area of modest bungalows and low-rise commercial buildings along Central Avenue emerged as the heart of the black community in southern California (notably playing host to one of the first jazz scenes in the western U.S., with trombonist Kid Ory a prominent resident). Under racially restrictive covenants, blacks were only allowed to own property within a zone bounded by Main Street on the west, Alameda Street on the east, Washington Boulevard on the north, and Slauson Avenue on the south, as well as in small enclaves in Watts and West Adams. Affluent blacks were somewhat less restricted in their ability to purchase property, gradually moving into West Adams and Jefferson Park, but the working- and middle-class blacks who poured into Los Angeles during the Great Depression and World War II found themselves penned into what was becoming a severely overcrowded neighborhood.

When the Supreme Court banned racial property restrictions in a landmark 1948 decision, blacks began to flood into surrounding areas. For a time in the early 1950s, southern Los Angeles became the site of significant racial violence, with whites bombing, firing into, and burning crosses on the lawns of homes purchased by black families south of Slauson. As was the case in most large American cities, the routes of planned freeways were chosen to enforce traditional segregation lines, with the Harbor and Santa Monica freeways built within blocks of the old boundaries. (A freeway was planned just south of Slauson Avenue, but went unbuilt except for its westernmost portions, which became the Marina Freeway.) However, the explosive growth of suburbs (most of which barred blacks by a variety of methods) led most whites (and a small but significant number of Asians) in neighborhoods bordering black districts to leave en masse, and by the 1960s most of Los Angeles south of Pico Boulevard (which runs well north of the Santa Monica Freeway) and east of La Brea Avenue had become overwhelmingly black. Areas wealthy (Baldwin Hills, Lafayette Square, West Adams) and impoverished (Watts) alike were referred to under the umbrella name of "South Central," even if they were 10 miles from the intersection of Vernon and Central Avenues.

Beginning in the 1970s, the precipitous decline of the area's manufacturing base resulted in widespread poverty and crime. Street gangs, such as the Crips and Bloods, rose to great notoriety at this time, becoming even more powerful with the arrival of crack cocaine (trade in which became dominated by gangs) in the 1980s. By the time of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which began in South Central and spread throughout the city, "South Central" had become a byword for urban decay, its bad reputation spread by movies such as South Central, Friday, and South Central native John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood.

Since the riots, much of the black population has moved to the Antelope Valley and Inland Empire areas far to the north and east (respectively) of Los Angeles; departing black homeowners have been replaced by a massive influx of Latinos. Today, South Central Los Angeles is far from being an "all-black" neighborhood. Many areas in South Central Los Angeles, including Watts, are now 70% Latino. Communities that used to be heavily populated by blacks have now become ethnically mixed places with Latinos dominating the population. Now, very few communities in South Central Los Angeles are over three-fourths African American. The rapid influx of Mexican immigrants into the formerly black region has caused conflicts among the different ethnic groups. In some parts of South Los Angeles, there have been hate crimes commited by both ethnic groups because of conflicts over housing and jobs. However, considerable efforts have been made to form a Latino-black alliance in the inner city communities. [1] (,1,3044540.story?coll=la-headlines-california)

In 2003, the city of Los Angeles changed the area's official name from "South Central" to South Los Angeles, hoping to blur collective memories of violence and blight. The remaining black population tends to make an 'L' shape in the southwest South Central area, with Latinos dominating the rest of the region.


Communities in South Central include:

Although incorporated cities or unincorporated towns, the following are often considered to be part of the South Central area despite being outside of the Los Angeles city limits:

People from South Central

South Central Landmarks


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