Los Angeles Riot, 1943

   Like many cities during World War II, Los Angeles, California, experienced an enormous increase in population as workers flocked to the wartime aircraft industry and shipyards. The city saw a massive influx of Hispanic Americans and African Americans. Of the 2.8 million inhabitants in Los Angeles County in 1945, 250,000 were Mexican American, many recent arrivals. A total of 60,000 African Americans also entered the city in search of work. Some 50,000 service personnel from nearby bases and ports also entered the city on weekends. Tensions over jobs, housing, and recreational areas were inflamed by racial prejudices, and Mexican youths (pachucos), who demonstrated their rebellion by wearing “zoot suits” (baggy trousers tight at the ankle and long loose draped jackets), were often the target of attacks by white servicemen. In June, the conflict led to a series of violent clashes that turned into four days of rioting between 3 and 7 June, primarily white soldiers and sailors attacking Mexican Americans and some African Americans. Most of the 600 people arrested were, however, Mexican Americans. The fighting ended when the city was declared off-limits to servicemen. The Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance banning “zoot suits.”
   See also Detroit Race Riot; Harlem Race Riot, 1943.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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