Date of Award

Winter 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Harvard Sitkoff


This dissertation explores the black struggle for housing equality through mid-twentieth century Los Angeles, California. Alongside the rise of Los Angeles as a major metropolitan center, residential discrimination became embedded in the fabric of the city and African Americans found themselves forced to live on the increasingly run down Eastside. In response, a number of middle- and upper-class blacks led a campaign against housing discrimination by migrating to the Westside. While they were accused of abandoning low-income blacks and adopting white norms, affluent blacks defied racial restrictive covenants, endured white intimidation, and pursued lawsuits in an effort to live in some of the city's desirable neighborhoods and attain full access to the city. Claiming their right to better housing and services, improving their financial status, and becoming regularly consuming Americans served as political statements for African Americans in a city that forbade people of color from fully enjoying those opportunities. Affluent blacks challenged the divisions that segregated the urban, racially diverse Eastside from the suburban, mostly white Westside. As they migrated westward, they invalidated housing discrimination and opened up more neighborhoods to people of color.

While most whites ultimately responded to black in-migration by moving away, affluent blacks forged alliances across racial lines to keep their communities both integrated and prosperous. After moving to historic West Adams Heights and winning the legal battle against restrictive covenants, affluent blacks migrated further westward into the highly-regarded Crenshaw district. In an effort to thwart real estate blockbusting and maintain racial integration, affluent blacks established interracial neighborhood associations, worked with public schools, and organized community outreach programs. Despite white fears of neighborhood deterioration, as more blacks settled in the Crenshaw district and adjacent Ladera Heights, property values soared. Successful black doctors, attorneys, and entertainers heightened the reputation of the area. But the efforts toward integration proved no match to white resistance. By the 1980s, the Crenshaw district and Ladera Heights comprised of a majority black population and earned the ambiguous nickname the "black Beverly Hills," a title that celebrated black achievement, yet kept affluent blacks in the shadow of mostly white Beverly Hills.