Ethnic Shift and Space Usage in Nickerson Gardens
Mentor:Rebecca Overmyer-Velasquez, Associate Professor, Whittier College
The Nickerson Gardens Housing Development (NGHD) established in the early 1950s is located in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, CA. The original intent of the NGHD was to provide low cost, safe, transitional housing for workers in the war industry. During the late 1940’s and into the 1960’s the population of NGHD consisted Whites and African Americans. Racial conflicts soon lead to partitioning of physical spaces. The first migratory transition of the NGHD took place at this time, Whites moved out while more African Americans moved in. This pattern of social interaction and race/ethnic dynamics is once again occurring within the NGHD, with African Americans moving out and Latinos moving in. According to several Los Angeles Times news articles in the 1990’s the Watts neighborhood faced great turmoil as the population began to shift from primarily African Americans to Latinos. In 1991, the population in a housing project in Watts consisted of only 20% Latinos (LA Times, 1991). The “once-black enclaves” began to receive an influx of Latinos and as this happened racial tensions rose too, the few Latinos in the Watts area became “frequent crime victims” (Lopez, 1993). Today Latinos make up the majority of the population in NGHD. From preliminary observations, it was observed that racial tensions still exist but both ethnic groups have managed to coexist with reduced racial violence. Therefore, this study seeks to explore the discourse about how space is utilized within the NGHD between African American and Latinos. To understand how public space is utilized and/or partitioned by the ethnic groups the study will use observations of public spaces, interviews from both of the ethnic groups, and will also look at archival data in order to quantify the ethnic shift from Whites to African Americans and now from African Americans to Latinos.