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My Blue Heaven

Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965

My Blue Heaven

Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965

In the 1920s, thousands of white migrants settled in the Los Angeles suburb of South Gate. Six miles from downtown and adjacent to Watts, South Gate and its neighboring communities served as L.A.’s Detroit, an industrial belt for mass production of cars, tires, steel, and other durable goods. Blue-collar workers built the suburb literally from the ground up, using sweat equity rather than cash to construct their own homes.

As Becky M. Nicolaides shows in My Blue Heaven, this ethic of self-reliance and homeownership formed the core of South Gate’s identity. With post-World War II economic prosperity, the community’s emphasis shifted from building homes to protecting them as residents tried to maintain their standard of living against outside threats—including the growing civil rights movement—through grassroots conservative politics based on an ideal of white homeowner rights. As the citizens of South Gate struggled to defend their segregated American Dream of suburban community, they fanned the flames of racial inequality that erupted in the 1965 Watts riots.

430 pages | 4 color plates, 11 halftones, 9 maps, 5 line drawings, 17 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2002

Historical Studies of Urban America

History: American History, Urban History

Political Science: Urban Politics

Sociology: Urban and Rural Sociology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Part I. The Quest for Independence, 1920-1940
1. Building Independence in Suburbia
2. Peopling the Suburb
3. The Texture of Everyday Life
4. The Politics of Independence
Part II. Closing Ranks, 1940-1965
5. "A Beautiful Place"
6. The Suburban Good Life Arrives
7. The Racializing of Local Politics
Acronyms for Collections and Archives


Historical Society of Southern Californi: Donald H. Pflueger Local History Award

Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association: Pacific Coast Branch Book Award

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