Little Tokyo, f.k.a. "Bronzeville"

One Los Angeles neighborhood that didn't make it out of the
20th century is Bronzeville. It was a name given to Little Tokyo
when African Americans moved into Japanese American owned homes following
President Roosevelt's executive order in 1942 to relocate people of Japanese
ancestry. Jobs were booming in Southern California because of the defense and
aerospace industries that were supporting World War II efforts, and this
attracted all Americans to California. A major obstacle, however, for African
Americans who headed west to Los Angeles was housing, because most whites would
not rent or sell to them. Thus, an abandoned Little Tokyo was the destination
for shunned migrants.

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But not all Japanese Americans followed the order for

Tim Toyama and Aaron Woolfolk's play "Bronzeville" tells the
fictional story of one Japanese American holdout against the internment--a
college graduate who hid in his attic. The story reveals the culture clash and
understanding that develops between two different and oppressed peoples when an
African American family moves into the home. The family must decide what to do
with the fugitive (since, as Fred
had affirmed in his Supreme Court case against the government,
resisting internment was against the law) and come to terms with who has the
rightful claim to the home.


Unfortunately, tickets
for the remaining performances directed by Ben Guillory at The New LATC (Los
Angeles Theatre Center) are sold out. But to learn more about the real
Bronzeville, and the political alliances between African Americans and Japanese
Americans, check out Scott Kurashige book The Shifting Grounds of
Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles

The UCLA PhD now teaches urban politics and Asian and African American history
at the University of Michigan. Kurashige teases out the political alliances
between the two ethnic groups and details the painful struggle against racism
by reminding readers that Los Angeles did not intend to become a mecca of
diversity. One 1920s marketing campaign to entice residents to Eagle Rock, described
by Kurashige, uses racial homogeny as an incentive: "enjoying immeasurably the
ideal climate that is ours, you will observe that the residents of Eagle Rock
are all of the white race."

Today, such a claim of any Los Angeles neighborhood is
impossible to make, but in the era of Bronzeville, it was the hard truth.

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