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The Shifting Grounds of Race:
Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles
Scott Kurashige

Winner of the 2008 Albert J. Beveridge Book Award, American Historical Association
Winner of the 2008 Book Award in History, Association for Asian American Studies

Paperback | 2010 | $45.00 | £37.95 | ISBN: 9780691146188
352 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 20 halftones. 3 tables.
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Los Angeles has attracted intense attention as a "world city" characterized by multiculturalism and globalization. Yet, little is known about the historical transformation of a place whose leaders proudly proclaimed themselves white supremacists less than a century ago. In The Shifting Grounds of Race, Scott Kurashige highlights the role African Americans and Japanese Americans played in the social and political struggles that remade twentieth-century Los Angeles.

Linking paradigmatic events like Japanese American internment and the Black civil rights movement, Kurashige transcends the usual "black/white" dichotomy to explore the multiethnic dimensions of segregation and integration. Racism and sprawl shaped the dominant image of Los Angeles as a "white city." But they simultaneously fostered a shared oppositional consciousness among Black and Japanese Americans living as neighbors within diverse urban communities.

Kurashige demonstrates why African Americans and Japanese Americans joined forces in the battle against discrimination and why the trajectories of the two groups diverged. Connecting local developments to national and international concerns, he reveals how critical shifts in postwar politics were shaped by a multiracial discourse that promoted the acceptance of Japanese Americans as a "model minority" while binding African Americans to the social ills underlying the 1965 Watts Rebellion. Multicultural Los Angeles ultimately encompassed both the new prosperity arising from transpacific commerce and the enduring problem of race and class divisions.

This extraordinarily ambitious book adds new depth and complexity to our understanding of the "urban crisis" and offers a window into America's multiethnic future.


"During 'the white years' in LA history, you might think Asian immigrant groups and black migrants from the South lived in separate worlds. The truth is more complicated: sometimes they were pitted against each other, sometimes they fought--and sometimes they joined forces. . . . Those competitions and alliances are the subject of Scott Kurashige's fascinating and important new book."--Jon Wiener, The Nation

"Scott Kurashige's impressive investigation of the interactions between Japanese Americans and African Americans in mid-twentieth-century Los Angeles covers a tremendous amount of historical ground. . . . Clearly, there are stories still to be told here, but we are fortunate that Kurashige has given us an insightful and wide-ranging investigation into how leaders of two subaltern communities navigated the dangerous waters of race in a twentieth-century American city."--Jeremiah B. C. Axelrod, Journal of American History

"This excellent study demonstrates the value of multiethnic studies for urban history."--J. Borchert, Choice

"The . . . book . . . is clearly written and enjoyable--and merits the attention of those interested in the history of Los Angeles, the West, and black and Japanese Americans."--Shana Bernstein, Southern California Quarterly

"Scott Kurashige's fine study advances the creation of a fully multi-cultural American history. . . . On a personal note, as a Japanese American from the Crenshaw district, this reviewer found Shifting Grounds to be consistently enlightening about familiar individuals, organizations, and events, both Japanese American and African American."--Dean S. Toji, California History

"Shifting Grounds is a refreshing new look at race relations in Southern California and is not bogged down with academic lingo, making it an easy read for the general public."--Martha Nakagawa, Nichi Bei Times

More reviews

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
List of Tables xi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Constructing the Segregated City 13
Chapter 2: Home Improvement 36
Chapter 3: Racial Progress and Class Formation 64
Chapter 4: In the Shadow of War 91
Chapter 5: Japanese American Internment 108
Chapter 6: The "Negro Victory" Movement 132
Chapter 7: Bronzeville and Little Tokyo 158
Chapter 8: Toward a Model Minority 186
Chapter 9: Black Containment 205
Chapter 10: The Fight for Housing Integration 234
Chapter 11: From Integration to Multiculturalism 259
Conclusion 286
Abbreviations 295
Notes 297
Acknowledgments 331
Index 333


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