he area now known as Watts is located on the 1843 Rancho La Tajauta Mexican land grant.
As on all ranchos, the principal vocation was at that time grazing and beef production.
With the influx of European American settlers into Southern
California in the 1870s, La Tajuata land was sold off and subdivided for
smaller farms and homes, including a 220-acre parcel purchased by
Charles H. Watts in 1886 for alfalfa and livestock farming.
days each Tajuata farm had an artesian well.
The arrival of the railroad spurred the settlement and development of the area.
Most of the first residents were the traqueros, Mexican and Mexican American rail workers who constructed and maintained the new rail lines.
With this new growth, Watts was incorporated as a separate city, taking its name from the first railroad station, Watts Station
that had been built in 1904 on 10 acres of land donated by the Watts
The city voted to annex itself to Los Angeles in 1926.
Watts did not become predominantly black until the 1940s.
Before then, there were some African American
residents, many of whom were Pullman car porters and cooks.
photos from 1909 and 1911 show only two or three black faces among the
30 or so children pictured.
By 1914, a black realtor, Charles C. Leake,
was doing business in the area.
World War II brought the Second Great Migration, tens of thousands of African American migrants, mostly from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas, who left segregated Southern states in search of better opportunities in California.
During World War II, the city built several large housing projects (including Nickerson Gardens, Jordan Downs, and Imperial Courts)
for the thousands of new workers in war industries.
By the early 1960s,
these projects had become nearly 100 percent black, as whites moved on to new suburbs
outside the central city.
As industrial jobs disappeared from the area,
the projects housed many more poor families than they had
Longstanding resentment by Los Angeles's working-class black
community over discriminatory treatment by police and inadequate public
services (especially schools and hospitals) exploded on August 11, 1965,
into what were commonly known as the Watts Riots.
The event that precipitated the disturbances, the arrest of a black youth by the California Highway Patrol on drunk-driving charges, actually occurred outside Watts.
Mobs did the most property damage in Watts in the turmoil.
Watts suffered further in the 1970s, as gangs
gained strength and raised the level of violence in the neighborhood.
Between 1989 and 2005, police reported more than 500 homicides in Watts,
most of them gang-related and tied to wars over control of the
lucrative illicit market created by illegal drugs.
Four of Watts's
influential gangs—Watts Cirkle City Piru Bloods, Grape Street Watts Crips, Bounty Hunter Watts Bloods, and PJ Watts Crips—formed
a Peace Treaty agreement on April 26, 1992 following just over 4 years
of peace talks which were initiated in July 1988 with the support of the
local community and mosque, Masjid Al Rasul (where talks had be
conducted and the treaty was finalized).
The spokespersons for the groups taking part in the peace talks were Imam Mujahid Abdul-Karim (of Masjid Al Rasul) and gang members, Twilight and Daude.
Twilight and Daude photos from the 1988 Peace Talks press conference
were printed on the front pages of regional and local newspapers and
their interviews with TV news crews were on every news channel.
months and years to follow, Twilight would appear on National TV talk
shows, radio talk shows, and speak at several college and university
Both Twilight and Twelve received death threats due to
misinterpretation of newspaper articles by their peers, many of whom
would join the peace movement in the months and years to come.
After four years of peace talks, the Peace Treaty would be drafted and then agreed the day before the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
The pact, supported by community-based education initiatives and
private investments from prominent members of the community e.g. Jim Brown,
continues to contribute to the decrease in gang-related death in Watts
and the greater South Los Angeles area since 1992.
Key hallmarks of the
pact continue to influence life in Watts to date, with colors and
territory having little to do with gang-related crime.
Beginning in the 1980s, those African Americans who could leave Watts
moved to other parts of South Los Angeles and suburban locations in the
Antelope Valley, the Inland Empire, the San Gabriel Valley, Orange County, and the San Joaquin Valley.
The black population in Watts has been increasingly replaced by other demographic groups, primarily Hispanic immigrants of Mexican and Central American ancestry, as well as by a smaller proportion of Ethiopian and Indian ancestry.
This demographic change accelerated after the 1992 riots.
In addition, there has been a net migration of African Americans out of California to return to the South in a New Great Migration.
From 1995–2000, California was a net loser of African-American
With new jobs, Southern states have attracted the most black
college graduates since 1995.
Neighborhood leaders have begun a strategy to overcome Watts's
reputation as a violence-prone and impoverished area.
has been given to the museums and art galleries in the area surrounding Watts Towers at 1765 East 107th St, near the Imperial Highway and suburb of Lynwood.
This sculptural and architectural landmark has attracted many artists and professionals to the area.
I Build the Tower
, a feature-length documentary film about the Watts Towers and their creator, Simon Rodia,
provides a history of Watts from the 1920s to the present and a record
of the activities of the Watts Towers Arts Center. Watts is one of
several Los Angeles neighborhoods with a high concentration of convicted
The neighborhood's irregular street boundaries follow the Los Angeles city limits on the north and east, except for a small patch of Los Angeles County territory surrounding Ritter Elementary School, between 108th Street and Imperial Highway, which the Times
includes in Watts.
The southern boundary runs east-west on Imperial Highway, the eastern line is north-south on Alameda Street and the western line is north-south on Central Avenue to 103rd Street.
Ted Watkins Park and other county areas are excluded.
Then the line is Success Avenue between Century Boulevard and 92nd Street.
A total of 36,815 people lived in Watts's 2.12 square miles,
according to the 2000 U.S. census—averaging 17,346 people per square
mile, among the highest population densities
in Los Angeles.
Population was estimated at 41,028 in 2008.
age was 21, making Watts the Los Angeles neighborhood with the youngest
The percentages of residents aged birth to 18 were among the
Hispanics make up 61.6% of the population, with blacks at 37.1%, non-Hispanic whites 0.5%, Asian
0.2%, and others 0.5%.
Mexico and El Salvador were the most common
places of birth for the 34% of the residents who were born abroad, an
average percentage of foreign-born when compared with the city or county
as a whole.
The $25,161 median household income in 2008 dollars was considered
low for the city and county.
The percentage of households earning
$20,000 or less was high, compared to the county at large.
household size of 4 people was high for the city.
Renters occupied 67%
of the housing units, and homeowners occupied the rest.
In 2000, there were 2,816 families headed by single parents, or 38,9%, the highest rate for any neighborhood in the city.
The percentages of never-married women (45.3) and never-married men (44.7) were among the county's highest.
In 2000, there were 739 military veterans, or 3.6% of the population, low when compared to the rest of the city.
Just 2.9% of Watts residents aged 25 and older had earned a four-year
degree, according to the 2000 census, which is considered a low figure
for both the city and the county.
The percentage of those residents with
less than a high school diploma was high in comparison to the county
King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science opened in bungalows of Jordan in 1982.
In 1999 it moved to a standalone campus in Willowbrook.
In May 2013 Wiegand Avenue Elementary School became the first school in California from which a principal
was ordered removed in response to the state's 2010 "trigger law,"
which compels the dismissal of a school administrator on petition of a
majority of parents.
The removal of principal Irma
Cobian triggered other teachers to transfer as well.
Los Angeles Public Library operates the Alma Reaves Woods–Watts Branch.
Watts received its first library service in 1913 when temporary space
was designated in the city hall for a library.
In 1914 the library
moved into a newly built Carnegie library.
Los Angeles annexed Watts in 1926, so the library became the Watts
Branch of the Los Angeles library system.
In 1957 voters approved a
library branch bond and a 3,600 square feet (330 m2
) Watts Branch opened in 1960.
On June 25, 1996 the
city council voted to name the library after Alma Reaves Woods Watts, a
woman in the community who encouraged reading and library usage.
The Watts Towers or Towers of Sabato Rodia is a collection of 17
interconnected structures, two of which reach heights of over 99 feet
The Towers were built by Italian immigrant construction worker Sabato Rodia over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954.
The work is an example of non-traditional vernacular architecture and American Natïve art.
The Watts train station was built in 1904.
It is a National Historic Landmark.
It has been known as one of the few structures that were untouched by a
huge fire along 103rd street stores during the 1965 Watts riots.
it was found intact, it was a symbol of hope and faith for the Watts
Being one of the most original buildings that was first
constructed in Watts, it was a popular stop for the Pacific Electric
Railway's “Red Car” that ran through Los Angeles to Long Beach for 50 years.
It was admitted to the National Register of
Historic Places four months after the riots.
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