City Stories

Watts: Los Angeles’ Most Historic Community

watts ghetto watts gangs

The Short Watts Ghetto Story

From gang culture to popular culture, the neighborhood of Watts in the city of Los Angeles played a significant role in the development of the city’s black culture as there is probably not another neighborhood like the community of Watts, Los Angeles.

A large community located on the East Side of Los Angeles’ South Central was first established during the late 1800s and would become one of the first neighborhoods that blacks would move into when many first arrived, outside of areas like the Central Avenue district.

From the early 1900s to the 1960s, blacks from southern states like Texas, Louisiana, or Mississippi relocated into Los Angeles during what was known as the Great Migration, a movement of relocation of black families who were looking for better lives outside of the racist south.

With the influx of new arrivals and African-Americans populating South Central in historic numbers, the city of Los Angeles would eventually build the majority of Los Angeles’ housing projects for the city’s black population in the Watts community, while the other public housing complexes were built in or near East Los Angeles.

watts ghetto

Scene of the Watts Riots. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Collection

As the black community was becoming more and more established in the Los Angeles section of South Central many of the city’s African-American began to be tired of years of mistreatment by society, which included the police and the public officials of Los Angeles for not providing proper resources or upkeep for the community,

The frustration of the black community led to the Watts Riot of 1965, and after days of rioting, over 30 people were killed, thousands were either injured or arrested, and millions of dollars worth damage was done to the community and surrounding areas.

After the riots, the neighboring white population in South Central communities or in areas like Compton fled the area for the suburban areas further from the city as this helped further the dominance of the black population in South Central, Watts, Compton, Inglewood or surrounding areas by the start of the 1970s.

Fast forwarding to present day, the Watts ghetto has change from previous years as the Latino population has widely taken over the community’s that were once predominantly black, who have dominated the neighborhood since the 1940s and 50s.

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The Short Watts Gangs Story

Watts gangs have always been in the South Central neighborhood since before the 1960s as old school gangs like the Green Jackets have made a legacy for the streets of Watts in Los Angeles, which was followed by the rise of the local Watts gangs of the different Blood and Crip sets.

Nickerson Gardens, home to the Watts gangs of the Bounty Hunters who were one of the first ‘hoods to be part of the Bloods

Before the multiple Crip and Blood factions deep within the streets of the Watts ghetto there were only the likes of the East Side Crips who were in areas like Imperial Courts or Jordan Downs projects, which was during the early 1970s when only one main Crip gang was in the area and the Bloods were not yet heard of, but there were Bounty Hunters.

By the 1980s and 1990s, Watts gangs have already became well established, whether they were located in the housing projects or in the nearby ‘hoods with areas like Fudge Town or Front Street with the streets of Watts having almost a total of 20 Blood and Crip gangs.

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Jordans Downs, home to the Watts gangs of Grape Street Watts Crips, before it was just Jordan Downs Crips

From 92nd Street to Imperial Highway, Watts gangs occupied every section of the neighborhood with the likes of the Grape Street of Jordan Downs, PJ Watts of Imperial Courts, the Bounty Hunters of the Nickerson Gardens, and multiple more which has always created a respected for the area of Watts.

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*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.