When Little Tokyo Became Bronzeville

It may be hard to imagine now, but Little Tokyo, the historic heart of the Japanese American community in Los Angeles, for a brief moment was a bustling hub of African American life.

When Executive Order 9066 was enacted in 1942, the entire community based around Little Tokyo was uprooted. Citizens of Japanese descent were forced to abandon their homes and businesses as they were systematically herded into internment camps. This left the few blocks that comprise Little Tokyo -- with its Buddhist temples and handwritten Japanese signs -- barren as a ghost town, completely stripped of life.

The prejudiced society that ruled L.A. at the time also had pushed African Americans out of many neighborhoods. Racial covenants restricted their choice of residence, despite the surge in the Black population who had migrated from the South in search of wartime employment. The fully functional and habitable built environment of Little Tokyo provided the perfect refuge for the displaced African Americans.

Explore the related interactive mural


How World War II Era Internment Camps Changed Little Tokyo


Death is Part of Life for the Fukui Family in Little Tokyo