February 18, 2015

Charnan Williams

Williams, Charnan

Major and Classification

African American Studies and History

Faculty Mentor

  • George Sanchez, Ph.D.
  • Francille Rusan Wilson, Ph.D.

Department

  • Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

McNair Project

Lost in the City of Angels: A Comparative Analysis of Central Avenue and Leimert Park as Black Cultural Spaces
Abstract
This research examines two distinct black business districts in Los Angeles: historic Central Avenue and contemporary Leimert Park in order to understand the role of black entrepreneurship and the arts in sustaining black communities in Los Angeles. The height of Central Avenue was from 1920 to 1950 due to key institutions that served as anchors for African American entrepreneurs and their customers. However, the decline of Central Avenue as a black cultural space due to desegregation and migration allowed black enterprises and culture to relocate to a new location, Leimert Park. Leimert Park, a community southwest of Central Avenue located within the Crenshaw Corridor, eventually emerged in the late 1960s as a black district. Black merchants in Leimert Park incorporated visual and performance art into their businesses, drawing in blacks from all across Los Angeles and beyond. This research demonstrates that a sense of community predicated on spatial togetherness and black enterprises and art did not die with the demise of Central Avenue as a black district, but rather it transmitted to Leimert Park. Currently, city redevelopment programs threaten to change the identity of the Leimert Park community as a black cultural and business space without considering its vital role in community development. Leimert Park is a self-sustaining black urban community that has functioned and should be preserved as a continuation of traditions from Central Avenue.