Cover

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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Introduction

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pp. 1-14

Marlene Romero watched as her son struggled in school. In his five years at McKinley Elementary in Compton, California, her child had worked hard to master basic math but, according to Romero, he had received no extra help from his teachers. In fact, by her count, “her son has had just one effective teacher in his five years at...

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1. On Shaky Ground

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pp. 15-39

Early in the evening on Friday, March 10, 1933, ten-year-old Ruth Ashton was sitting by her radio in her Compton home listening to one of her favorite serials when the ground began to shake.1 Windows shattered, doors collapsed, and stores “burst open.” Brick chimneys were “snapped off,” roofs “caved in,” and walls “buckled,” as people ran for safety from their homes and...

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2. The Fastest Growing Town

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pp. 40-72

Ron Finger was born in 1941 in Jefferson, Iowa, where his father worked as a plant manager for Economy Forms Corporation, a company that made steel forms for buildings, bridges, and concrete work. In 1948 the company needed a supervisor for its newly opened Los Angeles office. Los Angeles was exploding in building development, and Economy Forms wanted to be a part of...

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3. Separate and Unequal

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pp. 73-105

While picketing the freshly built Compton Crest development, a black GI and his friend a white GI, both just two weeks back from Korea, argued with the white residents. “We’re fighting for you—we’re facing bullets for you—why can’t we live here?”1 Irate white homeowners told the California Eagle, a black newspaper, “We fought all the way from Normandy to the Battle of the...

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4. Becoming Urban

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pp. 106-128

Kelvin was the third of seven children born to Maxcy and Blondell Filer, who moved to California in 1953. Like many Americans, they sought out suburbia, but as African Americans they had limited options. When they moved to the west side of Compton, it was one of the few suburbs in Los Angeles County where African Americans could settle, and it became the Filers’ new...

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5. Unyielding Problems

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pp. 129-150

In September 1972, a student shot and killed another student in a classroom at Compton High. Teacher Sydney Morrison recalled the incident: “the third week into school I had gone over to the district office and came back and there was a body covered in a sheet down the hall from my room, two doors down. Apparently one student accosted another student and the kid pulled...

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6. A Rapidly Changing City

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pp. 151-186

Pedro Pallan was a longtime Compton resident and businessperson. In December 1984, the Compton Unified board of trustees appointed Pallan to its personnel commission, a three-member board that oversaw the recruitment, screening, and hiring of approximately 1,900 classified employees. He became the first Latino to serve on the commission, when he replaced African...

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7. Enter the State

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pp. 187-213

In April 1992 Compton city councilperson Patricia Moore planned to bus a group of “concerned citizens” to Simi Valley to hear the closing arguments in the trial of four Los Angeles police officers charged with the beating of black motorist Rodney King. Moore told the Compton Bulletin she wanted African Americans to attend so that they could be “the last thing...

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Epilogue. Out from Compton’s Past

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pp. 214-230

In December 2001, after eight tumultuous years of state control, Compton’s elected officials regained decision-making power over their school district. No ceremonies, not even a press conference, marked the event. Instead, business continued as usual. New superintendent Jesse Gonzales commented: “It’s just another day at the office. We’re just going to continue to improve the...

Abbreviations

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pp. 231-232

Notes

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pp. 233-296

Index

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pp. 297-308

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 309-313

I have lived with this project for a very long time. While I am responsible for any mistakes, the book is a product of much collaboration. Though I fear that I will not be able to thank all who have touched it, I am pleased to have the opportunity to try.
I am indebted to the people of Compton who have aided me in understanding their town and its history. I would first like to thank the...