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In 1964 an Urban League survey ranked Los Angeles as the most desirable city for African Americans to live in. In 1965 the city burst into flames during one of the worst race riots in the nation's history. How the city came to such a pass―embodying both the best and worst of what urban America offered black migrants from the South―is the story told for the first time in this history of modern black Los Angeles. A clear-eyed and compelling look at black struggles for equality in L.A.'s neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces from the Great Depression to our day, L.A. City Limitscritically refocuses the ongoing debate about the origins of America's racial and urban crisis. 

Challenging previous analysts' near-exclusive focus on northern "rust-belt" cities devastated by de-industrialization, Josh Sides asserts that the cities to which black southerners migrated profoundly affected how they fared. He shows how L.A.'s diverse racial composition, dispersive geography, and dynamic postwar economy often created opportunities―and limits―quite different from those encountered by blacks in the urban North.

Editorial Reviews

" . . . Sides compels American historians to adopt a broader vision of the course of twentieth-century history, one that encompasses the American West. From the Great Migrations of African Americans from the South to the disappearance of well-paying blue-collar jobs to civil rights movements, the book demonstrates that such transformations were indeed national events."-- "Reviews in American History"

". . . Sides leaves the reader with a convincing and disturbing picture of the history of African Americans, not only in Los Angeles, but also in many other communities in America that have followed a similar course."-- "Journal of American Ethnic History"

". . . Source material for for planners of tomorrow's multiracial cities . . . [and a] counter-narrative to the historic narrative of crime, violence and poverty."-- "Los Angeles Times Magazine"

"An exceptional book. . . . [Sides] mixes pioneering research with good writing, sharp analysis and the moving stories of everyday people. His work deserves a place on the bookshelves of all serious students of Los Angeles and the rest of urban California."-- "Los Angeles Times Book Review"

"By focusing on the experiences of African Americans who moved to Los Angeles, this work makes a needed contribution to the literature on the Great Migration(s) of African American Americans from the South. Whereas scholarly attention has centered on how such migrants fared in the North, the experiences of those who moved west are far less understood. LA. City Limits pivots around the paradox of Los Angeles embodying the best and worst of what faced these urban black residents, highlighting three distinctive features that shaped black fortunes in the city: the diverse racial composition, dispersive geography, and the dynamic post-war economy they encountered. Sides's work convincingly argues that "place matters," and nicely complements Mike Davis's explorations of LA.'s sunshine and noir in City of Quartz and George Sanchez's examination of the fortunes of the Mexican American community in Los Angeles in his book Becoming Mexican American."-- "Southern California Quarterly"

"Josh Sides has given Los Angeles a modern history of its African American population that should stand for years as a standard work on that subject, and a foundation for comparative studies of other communities and ethnic experiences."-- "California History"

"Overall, this is a worthwhile book that merits close study."-- "Western Historical Quarterly"

"Sides makes a convincing argument that L.A. should be looked at as the model for understanding race relations in the second half of the twentieth century."-- "American Historical Review"

"The broad chronological scope of L.A. City Limits allows Sides to explore the effects of long-term developments such as suburbanization and deindustrialization upon AfricanAmericans. It also leaves open to Sides and other historians the opportunity to explore in greater depth the experiences of African Americans at certain, critical points in time."-- "Pacific Historical Review"