The LA Times was duly impressed by the scope and depth of the work included in Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities, Edited by Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramon.
The book brings together the research interests of what Hunt describes as an “all-star team” of contributors, most but not all of them academics with strong California connections. Comprising 17 short to medium-length essays, it pivots from data-rich analyses of how the black community’s 20th century demographic center gradually has shifted from Central Avenue to Leimert Park, to interview-driven, anecdotal accounts of the rise and decline of Venice’s Oakwood neighborhood and a revealing chronicle of the black-owned SOLAR (Sounds of Los Angeles Records), a late ’70s-early ’80s R&B hit-making machine for groups including the Whispers, Shalamar and Klymaxx.
It also includes multidisciplinary, L.A.-centric essays on incarceration’s impact on black families, the relationships between gay African Americans and their religious communities, and the ethnic-minority admissions policies of UCLA, among other thorny topics.
More than half a dozen years in the making, the roughly 430-page volume is believed to be the first such project of its kind. Despite its formidable size, the authors say, L.A.’s black population has been relatively under-analyzed in comparison with New York, Chicago and other northeastern and Midwestern centers of black population.