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Countdown to Watts

August 6, 2007 |  8:02 am



Aug. 5, 1957
Los Angeles

In eight years (the headline above is from The Times, Aug. 12, 1965), Los Angeles will explode in the Watts riots and many people will wonder how it happened. Here's part of the answer. This article from the Mirror is so appalling that I'm running it in its entirety. (And no, The Times didn't even cover the problem).

Here are the highlights:

  • Of the 80 elementary school districts whose prospective teachers are referred by Los Angeles County, only six have black teachers: Willowbrook, Enterprise, Compton, Monrovia, Keppel Union and Soldedad. Some districts refuse to hire African Americans, others have defacto segregation because they are in white communities and hire local residents.
  • Of the 10 chartered cities in Los Angeles County that screen their own teachers, only four will hire blacks: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica and Pasadena.

The reason, according to county school Supt. C.C. Trillingham: Timid school officials and an apathetic public.

Did I mention that there was a teacher shortage as schools prepared to open for the fall? The Mirror said there were 300 unfilled positions and roughly 150 black teachers who couldn't get jobs (assuming that the figures were largely unchanged from 1956).

And L.A. couldn't do the math.


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