Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

April 22, 1950

Guest post by Austin Demers, undergraduate student at Iowa State University.

The road to freedom and equality has and continues to be an uphill battle for African Americans. In the 1950s African Americans faced extreme prejudice, and one leading example of this occurs on the realty frontier. In Los Angeles, California, residents of the Leimert Park District actively fought to keep African Americans, or who they would more specifically define as “Negroes,” out of the admired and popular area.

The Chicago Defender is a Chicago-based newspaper that has been operating since 1905. The Defender, which was founded by Robert S. Abbott with only 25 cents according to PBS, is still in operation today. The Defender wrote about and covered issues and stories throughout the nation, which comes as no surprise considering more than half of its reader base came from outside of the Chicago area. The newspaper has been home to many prominent writers including Andrew Sturgeon “Doc” Young. Young, a journalist who called Hollywood home, wrote an article detailing information about white residents working together to prevent “Negroes” from purchasing homes.

“Plan Action Against Whites Who Sell Homes To Negroes” is an article written by Young on April 22, 1950. The article takes place in Los Angeles and more specifically the Leimert Park District. The district was a white neighborhood, and the residents actively sought to keep it that way. A group titling themselves the Neighborly Endeavor Inc. held several locked-door meetings concerning the issue and how to prevent Negroes entering their neighborhood. The group planned to sue any white owner who sold his Leimert Park home to a Negro family. The group acted against Oscar Reichow, a previous landowner in the Leimert Park District, by suing after he sold his home to a Negro couple, Mr. and Mrs. Preston Wilson. History, however, was not in the Neighborly Endeavor Inc.’s favor. In 1947 the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed restrictive covenants after a white owner in the Bronson-Santa Barbara area was sued for $25,000 after he sold his house to a Negro family. When asked about the case Reichow had this to say, “I am not worried.” He then when on to state he “understood that one can sell property to anyone as long as that person is an American Citizen. The house got too large for us, so we put it up for sale. The Wilsons were the first to come along, so we sold it to them.” The Wilsons, although claiming to be happy in their new residence, had their share of issues.

The Wilsons received unwarranted trouble from some of the neighbors within the district. However, they also received some support from non-Neighborly Endeavor Inc. partakers. Some of the residents within the district gave the Wilsons a reception to help welcome them into the community and to also express that not the entire community stood with the Neighborly Endeavor Inc. The Wilsons also received support from Rev. Hawes and a group of his supporters.

The issue of African Americans and their real estate difficulties was a common theme. Various types of housing acts and architectural movements plagued the African-American community during this time period. The National Association of Real Estate Boards promoted racist policies and pioneered racial covenants. These didn’t just take place in Los Angeles, but quite literally throughout the entire United States. St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Kansas City are all examples of areas with districts that restricted specific ethnic groups in addition to Los Angeles. These issues started during the early 1920s and dominated the realm of real estate up until the late 1940s.

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