Watts, Los Angeles, California
Watts is a residential district in southern
Los Angeles, California(more specifically, part of South Los Angeles). It is considered by many to be a ghetto. Watts was also the home of the first subway in the Americas.
The area now known as Watts began its modern history, after the arrival of Spanish-Mexican settlers, as part of the Rancho La Tajuata, which received its land grant in 1820. As on all ranchos, the principal vocation was grazing and beef production.
With the influx of white Americans into Southern California in the 1870s, La Tajuata land was sold off and subdivided for smaller farms and homes. In those days each Tajuata farm had an
artesian well. The arrival of the railroad spurred the development of the area, and in 1907 Watts was incorporated as a separate city, named after the first railroad station, Watts Station, that was built in the town. The city voted to annex itself to Los Angeles in 1926.
Along with more Caucasian Americans,
Mexicanand Mexican Americanrailroad workers (" traqueros") settled in the community. Blacks came in later and many of the men were Pullman car porters and other railroad workers. Schoolroom photos from 1909 and 1911 show only two or three black faces among the 30 or so children pictured. By 1914, a black realtor, Charles C. Leake, was doing business in the area.
Watts did not become predominantly black until after the 1940s, as the Second Great Migration brought tens of thousands of migrants from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas who left segregated states in search of better opportunities in California. During
World War II, the city built several large housing projects (including Nickerson Gardens, Jordan Downs, and Imperial Courts) for the thousands of new workers in war industries. By the early 1960s, these projects had become nearly 100 percent black, as whites moved on to new suburbs outside the central city. As industrial jobs disappeared from the area, the projects housed many more poor families than they had traditionally.
Longstanding resentment by Los Angeles' working-class black community over discriminatory treatment by police and inadequate public services (especially schools and hospitals) exploded on August 11, 1965, into what were commonly known as the
Watts Riots. The event that precipitated the disturbances, the arrest of a black youth by the California Highway Patrolon drunk-driving charges, actually occurred outside Watts. Mobs did the most property damage in Watts in the turmoil.
Watts suffered further in the 1970s, as
gangs gained strength and raised the level of violence in the neighborhood. Between 1989 and 2005, police reported more than 500 homicides in Watts, most of them gang-related and tied to wars over control of the lucrative market in illegal drugs. Three of Watts' most notorious gangs— Grape Street Watts Crips, Bounty Hunter Watts Bloods, and PJ Watts Crips—formed a cease-fire agreement after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Their pact that may have contributed to the decrease in crime in the area between 1992 and 2000. Beginning before the 1970s, like whites before them, those African Americans who could, left Watts for other parts of South Los Angeles, and suburban locations in the Antelope Valley, the Inland Empire, The San Gabriel Valley, Orange County, and the San Joaquin Valley. This process, which some call black flight, is simply part of the increasing suburbanization of African Americans during recent decades, in a journey typical of the larger American society. The black population in Watts has been replaced by successor migrants, primarily Hispanic immigrants of Mexican and Central American ancestry, as well as a smaller proportion of Ethiopianand Indian ancestry. This process of residential change accelerated after the 1992 riots.
In addition, there has been a net migration of African Americans out of California to return to the South in a
New Great Migration. From 1995-2000, California was a net loser of African-American residents. With new jobs, Southern states have attracted the most black college graduates since 1995. [ [http://www.brookings.edu/urban/pubs/20040524_Frey.pdf William H. Frey, "The New Great Migration: Black Americans' Return to the South, 1965-2000", The Brookings Institution, May 2004, pp.1 and 4] , accessed 19 Mar 2008]
Neighborhood leaders have begun a strategy to overcome Watts' reputation as a violence-prone and impoverished area. Special promotion has been given to the museums and art galleries opened in the area surrounding
Watts Towersat 1765 East 107th St, near the Imperial Highwayand suburb of Lynwood. This sculptural and architectural landmark has attracted many artists and professionals to the area.
Geography and transportation
The district's boundaries are Firestone Boulevard on the north, Alameda Avenue on the east,
Imperial Highwayon the south, and Central Avenue on the west. Principal thoroughfares through the district include Santa Ana Boulevard; Compton and Wilmington Avenues; and 108th Street. In addition to buses, mass transit is provided by the Blue and Green light raillines of the Los Angeles Metro system, at the 103rd Street/ Kenneth Hahnstation on the Blue Line and the Imperial/Wilmington/ Rosa Parksstation where the Blue and Green lines meet.
Watts is split between
ZIP Codes 90002 and 90059.
Watts covers U.S. Census tracts 2420, 2426, 2427, 2430, and 2431. As of the 2000 census, total population in the district was 22,847. Racial breakdown was as follows: 38.9% black or African American, 13.3% White, 9.8% American Indian or Alaska native, 5.2% Asian or Pacific Islander, 49.3% some other races, and 13.9% two or more races; 69.7% were Hispanic of any race. The community has the lowest household income in all of Los Angeles County at $17,987. Per capita income stood at $6,681; 49.7% of families and 49.1% of individuals were below the
poverty line. Unusually, the household income in the 1980 census for Watts was higher than it is today even with inflation.
Los Angeles Fire Department[http://lafd.org/fs65.htm Station 65] (Watts) serves the community.
Los Angeles Police Departmentoperates the nearby Southeast Community Police Station [http://www.lapdonline.org/southeast_community_police_station] .
Primary and secondary education
Watts is located in
Los Angeles Unified School District's Local District 7.
Its local secondary public school is David Starr Jordan High School, which includes a math-science magnet component [http://www.lausd.k12.ca.us/Jordan_HS/Magnet/magnet.htm] . It has a student body of 76.5 percent Latinos, 23 percent African Americans and 5 percent other and, according to its website, is "located in a high crime area." [http://www.lausd.k12.ca.us/Jordan_HS/Jordan/WASC_report_partial_summary.htm] Its athletic teams are known as the Bulldogs. The adjacent
Simon RodiaHigh School is a continuation school for students who cannot attend Jordan. [http://www.lausd.k12.ca.us/Markham_MS/ Edwin Markham Middle School] has sixth- through eighth-grade students [http://www.greatschools.net/modperl/parents/ca/pc/2226/] .
Youth Opportunities High School, part of the
Los Angeles Conservation Corps https://www.lacorps.org, is also located in Watts.
And 109th Street School [http://notebook.lausd.net/portal/page?_pageid=33,54194&_dad=ptl&_schema=PTL_EP]
Compton Avenue Elementary located at 1515 E. 104 Pl next to Markham Middle School holds students grades Pre-K-5th.
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angelesoperates many area Catholic schools.
San Miguel School provides a Catholic education for about 200 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Most of the families come from Latin America. Tuition is $145 a month. Many parents cannot pay on time, according to "The Tidings" online at [http://www.the-tidings.com/2004/0305/famtime.htm] .
Verbum Dei High Schoolis also located in the Watts area. Another Catholic Elementary school is St. Lawrence Brindisiwhich is also K Through 8.
There is also a fairly new charter school named Jack H. Skirball Middle School located in Watts. It is located at Avalon and 115th St.
Los Angeles Public Libraryoperates the Alma Reaves Woods – Watts Branch.
MacArthur Fellow Charles Burnettgrew up in Watts. He is renowned for his film " Killer of Sheep", re-released in the last decade.
Charles Minguswas raised in Watts.
*Olympic Gold Medal Winner
Florence Griffith-Joynerwas raised in Watts.
*Nobel Prize-winning chemist
Glenn Seaborgattended Jordan High School in Watts.
Tyresewas born and raised in Watts on 113th St.
The Watts Prophetswere formed in Watts, made what is arguably Hip-Hop and Rap's very first album "Rappin' Black in a White World" made in 1971 before any traces of the South Bronx influence in hip hop
*Walter Scott, Wallace "Scotty Scott", Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hutson, and Gordy Harmon, the original members of the legendary R&B singing group
The Whispersare from Watts.
*West Coast rapper
Glasses Malonewas born and raised in Watts.
Don Cherrymoved to Watts at four years old, in 1940, and was very active with the local band the Jazz Messiahs
Eldridge CleaverMoved to Watts from Arkansas and was a graduate of Jordan High School, he has made countless references to his love for Watts as a community in his book, "Soul on Ice"
George JacksonMoved to Watts from Chicago, in his young years and became involved in petty thefts and robberies only to turn into one of the leaders of the Black Militant movement.
*World Record holding Gold Medal Olympian
Kevin Youngalumnus of both David Starr Jordan High School and UCLA was born and raised in Watts.
Ras Kasswas raised on 99th and Wadsworth in Watts and later moved to Carson.
Roger Mosleyfamous for his role as Magnum PI's helicopter pilot was born and raised in Watts
*Rhodes Scholar and Whittier College alumnus
Stan Sandersis from Watts
Sonny Crisscame of age in the Watts district.
*The late great
Eric Allan Dolphybecame famous for his work in jazz in Watts.
Charles Wright, uncle of Compton's Eazy-Eis know for his his single "express yourself" with the Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Band
Valerie Brisco Hooksa Watts native, won three gold medals as an Olympic track and field athlete at the 1984 Olympics
The 1972 sit-com "
Sanford and Son," being set in Watts, often made reference to problems in that district.
The television sitcom "
Two and a Half Men" includes a reference to Watts.
The song "
California Love" by Tupacmentions "In the city of good ol' Watts" in the chorus.
The 1988 film "Colors" featured Watts during the car chase and at the end of the movie.
The movie "Friday" was filmed in Watts.
The 1993 film "
Menace II Society" was principally set and shot in and around Watts.
The district is also referenced in the song "West Coast Poplock" By Ronnie Hudson, which was later covered in the rap song "
Royal Crown review have a song on their 1999 album "Walk On Fire" called "Watts Local".
Tyresewas born and raised in Watts on 99th St and also near 102nd Street School.
Jay Rockwas born and raised in Watts in the Nickerson Gardens Projects.
1965 Watts Riot
1992 Los Angeles riots
Los Angeles, California
South Central Los Angeles
MaryEllen Bell Ray, "The City of Watts, California: 1907 to 1926", Los Angeles: Rising Publications, 1985. A definitive early history.
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