Erased from utopia: the hidden history of LA’s black and brown resistance

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04/15/2020

In August 1965, thousands of young Black people in Watts set fire to the illusion that Los Angeles was a youth paradise. Since the debut of the TV show 77 Sunset Strip in 1958, followed by the first of the Gidget romance films in 1959 and then the Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA in 1963, teenagers in the rest of the country had become intoxicated with images of the endless summer that supposedly defined adolescence in southern California. Edited out of utopia was the existence of a rapidly growing population of more than 1 million people of African, Asian, and Mexican ancestry. Their kids were restricted to a handful of beaches; everywhere else, they risked arrest by local cops or beatings by white gangs. Thus LGBT activists coordinated actions with youth activists in protest of police and sheriffs’ dragnets on Sunset Strip, in turn making “Free Huey” one of their demands. When Black and Chicano high school kids “blew out” their campuses in 1968–69, several thousand white students walked out in solidarity.

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