McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Delphine Sims


Major and Classification

African American Studies

Faculty Mentor

  • William Deverell, Ph.D.


  • History

McNair Project

Structure, Space, and Blackness on Central Ave: 1935-1955

The complex identities of Los Angeles African Americans of the WWII era will be explored through the unique structures and spaces on or near Central Ave. The always-evolving Central Ave became a place of social upheaval, uplift, and interaction for Blacks of all classes. Black populations have been well established within Los Angeles and, recently, additional populations have migrated there as a result of the War industry and opportunity. Ethnic identity exists in the grouping of people's within similar spaces, thus Black Los Angelinos culture has developed within businesses, clubs, newspapers, or churches in the area. The architectural aesthetics of Central Ave structures became pertinent to Black communities and drove how spaces became areas for Blacks to convene for socializing, community planning, and activist purposes. These places of community interaction effectively created a sense of pride and activism in the Blacks of the area while simultaneously dividing the individuals based on migrant and class status. The uniqueness that has become South Central in this time period becomes ever more important in these structures that serve as symbolic and physical examples of the great history and achievements of the area and the race. Such research is essential to an understanding of the dynamics of the educated Black upper middle class and lower class. Furthermore, this research will add to our understanding of how these spaces drive unity in the Black population toward holistically uplifting the race.