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South Central L.A., more than Bloods & Crips

The Short South Central Los Angeles Ghetto Story

The only topic to come to mind when conversating about South Central is the reputation that the media and popular culture has promoted from movies, music and documentaries to the knowledge of Bloods and Crips.

What some may not know is that before the rise of Bloods and Crips there was only gangs like the Slausons, Gladitors, Businessmen and others, as well as gangs that are still in existence today like the Brims or the Bishops.

While movies like Colors and other popular culture projects depicted much gang violence of the 1980s and 1990s, in the early stages of gangs the South Central Los Angeles ghetto there was not as violent other than the moments of fistfights.

During the late 1960s, preferably 1969, the Crips were formed in South Central, beginning with the East Side Crips that were later followed by the West Side Crips, while many other factions or sets began to take affect further into the 1970s.

los angeles ghetto history of los angeles gangs south central los angeles  black history los angeles

Editorial credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Years after the formation of the Crips, around the mid-1970s, many of the neighborhoods that did not join the Crips decided to affiliate themselves together and created the Bloods.

By the late 1970s, the streets within Los Angeles’ gang culture changed as conflict between the Rollin’ 60s and the 8 Tray separated the Crips into Neighborhood Crips and Gangster Crips, while the streets were becoming more violent, especially into the 1980s and 1990s.

Years of conflict with neighboring neighborhoods being rival to each other, whether it would be Bloods vs Crips or Gangster Crips vs. Neighborhood Crips, as well as other factions having friction with one another, have caused an everlasting war with only one winner in sight, as the true winner is not from or even resides in the community.

While there is much more to the story of Los Angeles gangs this brief summary gives an idea of the brief history of the culture as it is hard to talk about South Central without the mention of Bloods and Crips, but everybody from South Central is not affiliated with gangs as there is other stories to the community’s history.

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The Short South Central Los Angeles Black History

In probably the last state to have a black population, California and the city of Los Angeles’ South Central section gained a black community as African Americans, between the 1920s and the 1950s, relocated from southern communities of places like Texas, Louisiana, or Mississippi.

Central Avenue, as well other areas in South Central, became the stronghold for the city’s black population during the community’s early days as the area was known to housed numerous of black businesses and establishments, including entertainment as the neighborhood became famously known for its influx of Jazz musicians.

south central los angeles black history

Murals of Jazz players in the location of Central Avenue. Courtesy OnCentral.KPCC/Flickr

Many African-Americans of South Central’s original community worked as servants, caretakers, or small-time laborers, during a time when the thought of leaving the southern United States did not necessarily mean escaping racism, segregation and discrimination.

Terms like redlining or blockbusting can be used to explain how African Americans were forced to live in designated neighborhoods, meaning they were only allowed to live specific communities, like the area of Central Avenue.

The West Side of South Central, everything that is west of I-110 or Main Street, was viewed as a more affluent community, somewhat luxurious compared to the East Side, as white families claimed this section of South Central until the 1950s.

Starting during the 1950s, middle class black families began to leave the East Side of South Central and decided to enter the West Side communities like West Adams, on a side that consisted of homes that were newer compared the area many were leaving from.

While some African-Americans who could have been considered as upper class relocated into the West Side areas of West Adams and Leimert Park during the 1940s, the majority began to come into the area during the 1950s, while establishing their own idea of a community that was related to Central Avenue.

With black flight beginning in the 1950s of East Side areas like Central Avenue and following the infamous Watts Riots of the 1960s, the black population greatly expanded throughout South Central during the 1960s, especially after more black families relocated to Los Angeles during World War II for the war related employment opportunities.

With the removal of housing restrictions, integration and the ending of segregation, white families began to leave South Central Los Angeles in the masses, as well surrounding areas of Inglewood and Compton.

south central los angeles ghetto

Editorial credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

The experience of the Los Angeles ghetto has always been a struggle for many, from the early days of hatred and violence fueled by racism and discrimination from authority and citizens of other races to the many days of police brutality and the harsh laws of gang injunctions that led to increase prison sentences.

The struggle has continued as many residents are losing their neighborhood, for example on the East Side the Mexican and Hispanic population has greatly expanded taken over many of the homes in the community, while on the West Side gentrification in certain sections have increase the rent to a point where it has become unaffordable.

With the changes in the community, many residents are being forced to leave South Central Los Angeles and either move into other cities outside of the city, whether in Los Angeles County or San Bernardino County, while many of others are leaving the state of California altogether.

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

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