Street Meeting: Multiethnic Neighborhoods in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles

Street Meeting: Multiethnic Neighborhoods in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles

Street Meeting: Multiethnic Neighborhoods in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles

Street Meeting: Multiethnic Neighborhoods in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles

Synopsis

Immigrant neighborhoods of the early twentieth century have commonly been viewed as segregated, homogeneous slums isolated from the larger "American" city. But as Mark Wild demonstrates in this new study of Los Angeles, such districts often nurtured dynamic, diverse environments where residents interacted with individuals of other races and cultures. In fact, as his engaging account makes clear, between 1900 and 1940 such multiethnic areas mushroomed in Los Angeles. Street Meeting, enriched with oral histories, reminiscences, newspaper reports, and other sources, examines interactions among working-class Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, Jews, Italians, African Americans, and others, reminding us that Los Angeles has been a multiethnic city since its birth. This study further argues that these ethnic interactions played a crucial role in the urban development of the United States during the early decades of the twentieth century.

Excerpt

In August 1944 authorities at the Manzanar Relocation Center in the high desert of eastern California, where several thousand Japanese had been confined during World War II, made a strange discovery. Two years earlier a high school student named Ralph Lozo had registered for internment despite the fact that both his parents were of Mexican ancestry. He had been living at Manzanar ever since. “My Japanese-American friends … were ordered to evacuate the West Coast, so I decided to go with them,” the unapologetic Lozo explained. “Who can say I haven’t got Japanese blood in me? Who knows what kind of blood runs in their veins?”

Lozo was not the only non-Japanese confined at the internment camps. Elaine Black Yoneda, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, voluntarily accompanied her husband, Karl Yoneda, to Manzanar. The Yonedas were regional leaders in the Communist Party and had met at a demonstration in downtown Los Angeles ten years earlier. Elaine was a principal officer of International Labor Defense, the legal arm of the party. Karl had organized longshoremen, cannery workers, and other laborers up and down the West Coast. According to Yoneda, he was the only Asian longshoreman on the western seaboard at the time of his internment. A reluctant International Longshoreman’s Association admitted him only after his African American friend, Len Greer, “adopted” him in front of the membership committee to take advantage of a union tradition that permitted the automatic induction of the chil-

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