Hal Draper

Jim Crow in Los Angeles – II

(February 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 6, 10 February 1947, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The following excerpt continues the publication in Labor Action of an election campaign pamphlet published by the Los Angeles branch of the Workers Party. Its author is Hal Draper, candidate of the Workers Party for city councilman from the Seventh District of Los Angeles. We are publishing this pamphlet not only because of the material it contains on the Los Angeles situation, but also because its description and analysis of Jim Crow, as well as its program to fight Jim Crow, are of interest to readers throughout the country. Readers wishing to purchase copies of the pamphlet may do so by writing to the Workers Party, at 316½ W. Pico, Los Angeles.


The present drive to renew and extend restrictive covenants is not exactly a spontaneous movement by indignant householders. What are the forces behind them, seeking do line up white home-owners in a Jim Crow front?

In the first place, the banks and other lending institutions, anxious to preserve their investments on real estate loans. The Bank of America and the Security-First National Bank are prime movers but not the only ones. Their method is to refuse to finance loans unless the area is restricted, thus forcing action.

Second, the real estate boards, for similar reasons. The Southwest Realty Board, for example, has probably given the financial backing for every covenant organized in that district. Although the myth that Negro occupancy automatically lowers property values has been exploded by a survey of the National Association of Real Estate Boards in 147 cities, the real estate salesmen still like to use restriction as a selling point.

Third, the federal government, through the Federal Housing Authority, which acts in this respect as the executive committee of the real estate operators, but with the public’s money. Besides guaranteeing loans on race-restricted property, the FHA has actually “recommended insertion of race restrictive covenants as a pre-condition for its guarantee of loans,” reported Loren Miller of the NAACP to a national conference last May. Since that time the FHA has deleted this from its manual but it is still to be seen whether its local offices will change the actual practice.

From the USC to the KKK

Fourth, particular moneyed powers with vested interests. Last May the magazine Now lifted the lid on the drive for a restrictive covenant in the square mile area bounded by Washington Boulevard, Grand, Exposition and Vermont, in the heart of the city. This area contains a large amount of property tied up with investments of the University of Southern California and the Automobile Club of S.C. In addition, Chancellor Klein-Smid of USC and the Doheny oil family have mansions here. These three powers were squarely behind the anti-Negro campaign. The Auto Club’s legal department was handing out blank agreements and recruiting canvassers and admitted working in close collaboration with USC authorities. At USC, every fraternity and sorority had signed up, except a Jewish sorority.

The role of the USC deserves an extra word. While it has Negro students, its school of medicine rigidly excludes them; it has drawn the color line on the athletic field for 15 years; it uses a textbook on eugenics which preaches racism and Negro inferiority; its dormitories are Jim Crow. With all this, it is more distinguished for football teams than for education, in which its standing is notoriously low. And up to a recent revolt of its faculty (which was hushed up), its professors and instructors were being paid salaries which were among the lowest in the country. There’s the combination: Jim Crow, poor education, economic exploitation and lots of rah rah – all in a university, mind you; not an ordinary sweatshop.

Getting back to covenants, we list fifthly – plain racketeering. A fly-by-nighter sets up as a realtor, circulates covenant agreements, and charges two to five dollars for the “privilege” of signing, to cover the legal processing. A number of race-baiting numbskulls can even be induced to do the actual work of canvassing for the “cause” while the operator collects the soft fees.

Sixth on the parade is – the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan revival in this state began last March with fiery crosses in Big Bear Valley and an American Legion meeting there where an avowed Klan spokesman, Rev. Swift, declared: “We intend to form restrictive covenants here and elsewhere in order to hold the line of pure Americanism.” More on that later.

From finance capital to the underworld – that is where our list has brought us. And in such a set-up you can be sure that the capitalist politicians are not missing, although they are the bashful boys who don’t like their faces to show in such goings-on. An exception is a gentleman named McIntyre Faries, who was the Southern California head of the campaign for Governor Warren’s election. This “friend of the peep-ul” is one of the top leaders of the restrictive-covenant group in South Pasadena. To complete the circle, his law firm is also the counsel for the City Housing Authority in Los Angeles! Do you get the picture?

Old Jim Crow on the Job

But the expanding drive from within the bursting Negro community is making its way. In 1945 more lawsuits challenging restrictive covenants were filed by Negroes in this city than by Negroes in all the rest of the country. The Central Avenue district is moving west, to Broadway. The so-called Jefferson tract on the west side is moving east, to Vermont Avenue. Restrictive covenants are bulging at the seams.

As this is written, the possibility exists that the California Supreme Court may declare the race covenant unconstitutional and illegal, as it clearly is. If and when this occurs, the Jim Crow drive may be expected to shift from the “legal” instrument of segregation, the covenant, to a flare-up of racist violence and intimidation – encouraged by the money powers but carried Out by such agencies as, the Klan and local vigilante terrorists.

Such is the. connection between “respectable” Jim Crow (as practiced by the banks and real estate gougers) and race violence. The latter is brought to play when the other is knocked on the head. The fight will shift from the courts to the field of defense against terrorist gangs.

There is a “restrictive covenant” in the industrial plants too.

Last hired, first fired: as soon as the “war for democracy” and its labor shortage was over, the Jim Crow pattern began to snap back.

Partly, it was automatic, because Jim Crow creates a vicious circle. Being among the last, hired, Negro workers were among the earliest laid off. Being given little opportunity for all-around training under conditions of war production and race prejudice, they were the more easily weeded out when industry could afford to pick and choose. Then the FEPC was killed in Congress by the Democratic-Republican coalition and all vestige of restraint was removed.

Or if it wasn’t automatic, a shove was given. For example, at the local Todd shipyard in the month following V-J Day, Negro welders, especially women, were fired even against union seniority rules. This was done through the pretext of a welding re-test: the government’s Navy inspectors cooperated by inspecting the color of the welder rather than the test-plate.

Here you have the reason why fully one-quarter of all job applicants were “non-white” at the U.S. Employment Service in Los Angeles as of last March. This is grossly out of proportion to their six per cent of the population. By now, the proportion of Negro unemployment is probably even higher.

The local USES acknowledges that their February survey “reveals a higher percentage of openly acknowledged discrimination than had ever been previously recorded.” Nearly a third of the job orders in the manufacturing field excluded Negroes. Nearly a quarter of all job orders were discriminatory. This, mind you, counts only employers who put down their prejudice on paper and sign their names to it. The USES policy is to cooperate in such race discrimination as the agent for the employer.

The Negro worker is being pushed back into the economic blind alleys marked out for him by the economic rulers of our society!

All the jabberwocky that was handed out during the war about the “new freedom” or all four freedoms that would follow the defeat of fascist Germany is being exposed as the regular patriotic poppycock that is handed to oppressed people when their loyal services become necessary to tide the capitalist rulers over a crisis.

The attack on Jim Crow in jobs produced the drive for a state-wide Fair Employment Practices law. The reactionary state legislature turned it down several times. Was it just the bad, bad Republicans who blocked a state FEPC? No. The Negro assembly man from the 62nd district, Gus Hawkins, openly laid the responsibility upon both the Democrats and Republicans. (Los Angeles Sentinel, Feb. 21, 1946)

Last updated on 6 January 2022