(from the California
Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America
By Douglas Flamming
University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2005
467 pages, 40 black and white photographs, 5 maps
hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 0-520-23919-9
Reviewed by Ann Shea, Librarian
California African American Museum, Los Angeles
Los Angeles — a city from heaven. That is
how the city
was described by black migrants of the early 20th century in letters to the
folks back home in the South. But was Los Angeles truly a heavenly paradise
or a city of racial strife?
Douglas Flamming, Associate Professor of
History at the Georgia Institute of Technology, vividly relates the trials
and tribulations faced by black migrants to the West, and Los Angeles in
particular, in the first half of the 20th century. He skillfully takes the
reader from the post-Civil War era through Jim Crow, the Depression and the
period leading up to World War II. He describes the developing black
community and the rising black middle class in Los Angeles.
Professor Flamming relates the stories of
the movers and shakers of the era, such as Charlotta Spears Bass of
California Eagle newspaper fame and Frederick Robertson, elected to the
California State Assembly from the 74th District in 1918, who were in the
forefront in the fight for racial equality.
Housing, education, employment and the
role that Central Avenue played in the history of black Los Angeles are also
covered in detail.
Professor Flamming has written a history that is well documented, with the
skill of a novelist.