City Snapshot: Inglewood

Inglewood, a city spanning about 9 square miles in southwestern Los Angeles County, is today the second most segregated city in the country when measured against the larger region's demographics. The birthplace of cultural icon Tyra Banks, singer Becky G, and a handful of professional athletes, Inglewood's 110,000 residents are about 50 percent Black and 43 percent Latino. Whites make up just 2 percent of the city. Its degree of segregation is second only to Detroit. But its demographic history is unlike those of Inglewood's predominantly-Black or Latino neighbors in south LA. A century ago, like many parts of the region, Inglewood was home to a nearly all-white community. It had an active KKK presence notorious for its 1922 raid on an underground liquor distillery in which the city's constable took part (and which later led to the klan being outlawed in California).

As Black migrants from the country's south began populating parts of south LA in the 1940s and 1950s, Inglewood remained solidly white, due in large part to the racial covenants that outlawed the sale of homes to non-whites. Inglewood’s 1960 census recorded “only 29 Negroes among Inglewood’s 63,390 residents.” Black residents were largely confined to the central avenue corridor, known as “South Central Los Angeles.” The Black population expanded during World War II due to an increased demand for labor in the war industry. But because there were limitations to where they could reside, the conditions in South Central deteriorated rapidly due to overcrowding and disinvestment. 

These poor living conditions, coupled with the destruction of hundreds of Black-owned homes for freeway construction, and frequent encounters with violent police officers, left the region ripe for a rebellion like the one that would overtake Watts and spread to neighboring cities in 1965. The uprising lasted nearly a week, with tens of thousands of residents taking part, and leading to 34 deaths and the destruction of many homes, businesses and vehicles. This event, in conjunction with the decline of racially-restrictive covenants which were ultimately banned nationwide in 1968, marked the beginning of white flight from Inglewood. As Black families began to move to Inglewood, where they established a center for civil rights activism, and schools became integrated, many white families abandoned the city. Nearly all 63,000 residents counted in the 1960 census were white. By 1980, the city's population grew to 94,000, while its white population shrunk to less than 20,000. By 1990 whites made up just 9,000 of Inglewood's 110,000 residents.

Since 1990 the number of residents has remained more or less the same. But today they are facing new challenges brought on by private development. The $5 billion SoFi sports complex, the most expensive stadium in the world, was built in Inglewood for the Rams and the Chargers, while the Clippers are building their own arena just south of SoFi. In a city where only 36 percent of residents own their homes, renters are already being displaced. Some long-time residents are receiving notices that their rent will double. Others are just given eviction notices. The stadium and arenas will allow the use of eminent domain to seize land, making the situation appear eerily similar to the confiscation of land in Black neighborhoods of South Central LA to make way for the interstate highways decades before.