The Dapper Rebels of Los Angeles, 1966

By

3rd Jan, 2013

20130103-190032.jpg

In the summer of 1965, riots broke out in the Watts neighborhood of southern Los Angeles. Over a six-day period, 34 people were killed, 1,032 injured and over 3,438 arrests were made. In 1966, LIFE magazine revisited the site of the worst riots America had ever seen in its history. The photo essay depicting the region’s ‘fearsome street gangs’ however, turned out more like a fashion shoot for dapper style…

Click on the images to enlarge.

Decked out in preppy cardigans, high-waisted rolled up trousers and Wayfarers to boot, these young men of South Central Los Angeles were an unmistakably dandy bunch in contrast to the considerably oppressive environment they were living in.

20130103-190042.jpg

The African-American community in Watts came to its boiling pointing in August 1965 after years of police discrimination, exclusion from high-paying jobs and residential segregation. Racially restrictive covenants had kept 95 percent of Los Angeles real estate off-limits to the black and Asian communities which severely restricted education and economic opportunities for them.

20130103-190114.jpg

Where the black community could buy homes in American suburbia and live out the middle-class dream, significant racial violence escalated. White gangs bombed homes and burnt crosses on the lawns. In response to the assaults, black mutual protection clubs formed and became the basis of the region’s fearsome street gangs.

20130103-190120.jpg

20130103-190124.jpg

20130103-190140.jpg

In the 1960s, the LAPD was especially known for its police brutality against the city’s Latino and black residents. The police chief, William Parker actually made it a policy for officers to ‘establish dominance’ over young black and Latino teens and pre-teens as a way of showing who was boss. Frequent beatings, wrongful arrests, assaults on women became the norm for the African American community. On the night of August 11th, the intimidation and racial injustices backfired and the Watts’ African American population reached breaking point.

20130103-190148.jpg

The riot started after a young African American was pulled over by police officers for suspicion of driving under the influence. When the driver’s family got involved, they were arrested too, including his mother. Local residents gathered and the situation intensified.  What starting with yelling escalated to hurling rocks, bricks and whatever they could find at the police. Twenty-nine people were arrested but it did not end there. By the following night Watts was in flames.

20130103-190203.jpg

20130103-190211.jpg

Rioters armed themselves and passionately shouted, “Burn baby burn” and “Long live Malcolm X.” Fires raged for four more days. A civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin wrote, “the whole point of the outbreak in Watts was that it marked the first major rebellion of Negroes against their own masochism and was carried on with the express purpose of asserting that they would no longer quietly submit to the deprivation of slum life.”

20130103-190217.jpg

20130103-190222.jpg

20130103-190236.jpg

Images found on this interesting Brazilian blog (written in Portuguese), Ubora, about urban retro style.

:::

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

.

You Might Also Like

Comments

More in Editor's PicksInternet ScrapbookLife is Messy

Hot Off the Press

Editor's Picks

beirut3

A Prime Minister’s Abandoned Beirut Mansion

There's one type of home you don't really expect to find crumbling in an abandoned and decaying state– such as the ones that belonged to heads of state or government, for example. But when a co...

Trending 3,719
5126739968_1a75759ab9_b

The USB Sticks Hidden in Walls across the World

Five years ago, Berlin-based media artist Aram Bartholl launched a project called 'Dead Drops'. I know, I'm a little late in taking notice, but the trouble is, Adam's project is rather hard to spo...

Trending 24,447
denver13

Take a Tour of a 1964 Underground Fallout Home

I found this little gem of a photo series on my weekly fish through the LIFE archives, accompanied by just a few clues to the full story behind it. Filed under "Underground House in Denver, phot...

Trending 15,306