Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities

By Darnell Hunt; Ana-Christina Ramón | Go to book overview

Chapter 16
Reclaiming UCLA
The Education Crisis in Black Los Angeles

Ana-Christina Ramon and Darnell Hunt

UCLA—which boasts such storied black alumni as Jackie Robinson,
Tom Bradley, and Ralph Bunche, and is in a county that is 9.8% African
American—now has a lower percentage of black freshman than either
crosstown rival USC or UC Berkeley, the school often considered its top
competitor within the UC system.1

On a Sunday morning in June 2006, Los Angeles woke up to the above words under the headline “A Startling Statistic at UCLA.” Media throughout the nation soon picked up the news, reigniting a long-standing debate about higher education, race, and access.2 For much of the city’s black community, the revelation that fewer than one hundred African Americans were expected to enroll in a freshman class of more than 4,900 students was indeed startling. Black students stood to account for only about 2 percent of the freshman class at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)3—a public university located in a county where blacks made up nearly 10 percent of the population. For those better acquainted with UCLA, the news was not really all that new. This latest crisis reported in the pages of the Los Angeles Times was merely reflective of a promising yet often disappointing relationship between black Angelenos and the campus that could be traced to the origin of that relationship.

UCLA was a place of contrasts for black Angelenos. Established near Hollywood in 1919, when Black Los Angeles was experiencing tremendous growth, the campus relocated farther west to what would become the exclusive, white enclave of Westwood in 19294 (see figs. 16.1 and 16.2), just as the Central Avenue black community was coming into its own (see

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