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Watts Riots of 1965: Angelenos recount what lit up the powder keg




Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
A makeshift sign urging drivers to 'Turn Left Or Get Shot' during the race riots in the Watts area of Los Angeles in August 1965
Keystone/Getty Images
Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
A group of Black men are confronted by state troopers with bayonets at a street corner in the Watts neighborhood, Los Angeles, California, circa 1960s
Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
Armed National Guardsmen force a line of Black men to stand against the wall of a building during the Watts race riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
Fire-fighters in front of a blazing building during the Watts Riots in Los Angeles, California, 11th-15th August 1965
Harry Benson/Getty Images
Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
A suspect being searched by two armed police during the Watts race riots in Los Angeles, California, 11th-15th August 1965
Harry Benson/Getty Images
Armed National Guardsmen march toward smoke on the horizon during the street fires of the Watts riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
Armed police stand by as rioters lay face down in the street during the Watts race riots, Los Angeles, California, August 1965
Hulton Archive/Getty Images


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For younger Californians and new Californians who have little knowledge or understanding of what transpired 50 years ago, AirTalk hosts an historical primer on the riots.

What were the demographic and economic realities of the time? Why did a police stop of a young man spur six days of rioting over miles of LA that culminated in $200 million in fire damage alone? And, in the aftermath, how did it impact politics of Angelenos?

Joe Hicks and his young family were living in Watts at the time. What he experienced over those six days inspired him to become a civil rights advocate and spend his career focused on race relations.

Professor Lorn Foster of Pomona College was fresh out of high school and living with his family just outside the curfew zone. Larry speaks with Foster and Hicks to recount race relations at the time; a contentious chapter in LAPD history; and their personal experiences as the riots surged. 

If you were living in LA at the time, what are your memories and takeaways?

Guests:

Lorn Foster, Professor of American Government and Politics, Pomona College; Foster's current project is "Black Migration to Los Angeles, 1910-1950: the Role of the Black Church in Social Mobility;" Foster grew up in Los Angeles

Joe Hicks, Vice President of Community Advocates, Inc., a nonprofit organization that advocates innovative approaches to human relations and race relations in Los Angeles city and county; Hicks grew up in Watts