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South Central Travel Guide

South Central Los Angeles or more officially known as South Los Angeles is not as glamorous or attractive as the Westside of LA. In fact, it has a reputation for being a notoriously dangerous region of gang violence, crime, and racial tension. It burst onto the collective minds of people worldwide in 1992 as the center and focus of the Rodney King riots. The emergence of infamous gangs like the Crips, Bloods, and MS-13 from the neighborhoods of South Central has not helped its image either. The city of Los Angeles has felt it necessary to change the area’s official name to South Los Angeles to help us forget that a place of such urban decay, blight, and crime exists in LA. But residents still refer to the region as South Central.[1]

Geographically, South Central is generally considered to be the area of the city of Los Angeles south of the 10 freeway, east of Culver City and Inglewood, and north of the 405 freeway.[2] Originally, this was the only area that the city’s restrictive covenants permitted African Americans to purchase property prior to 1948. As a result, the region is still comprised of a large population of African Americans today, although a wave of Latino immigrants have moved into the area and now appear to represent the majority.[3]

South Central LA is mainly comprised of detached bungalows with lawn patches. The area is poor and home to many youth gangs whose members seem to believe there is little else hope of getting out of their vicious cycle of poverty. The streets are lined for miles with liquor stores, fast-food outlets, and abandoned factories. Occasionally, you’ll see a Hispanic outdoor market.[4]

The main attractions you’ll find in South Central include historic homes in the West Adams district, the masterpiece landmark known as the Watts Towers, and the museums around Exposition Park. The north side of South Central in the Exposition Park district is also home to the University of Southern California.[5]

Places to Visit

Baldwin Hills

Baldwin Vista
Village Green


Crenshaw Boulevard
Leimert Park Village
Museum in Black

Exposition Park

Automobile Club of Southern California
California Aerospace Museum
California African American Museum
California Science Center
Hancock Memorial
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Rose Garden
University of Southern California


Pepperdine University
Watts Tower

West Adams

Golden State Mutual Life
Guasti Villa
Lindsay House
Walker House
William Clark Memorial Library


South Central was first settled in the 19th century by immigrants from Mexico when the area was still subject to the governance of Mexico. When California was taken over by the U.S., becoming a state in 1850, waves of American migrants from the Midwest arrived.[6]

During WWII, LA became an industrial machine with many defense-related industries headquartered in the city. This brought a large number of African American workers to the city. Sadly, they experienced blatant discrimination from whites when they arrived, being subjected to restrictive covenants and bylaws that prohibited them from purchasing homes in certain neighborhoods and Jim-Crow type laws that required them to frequent only color bars. Many of them were not only forced to live in the neighborhoods of South Central but they also faced extreme hostility whenever they ventured out of this area even to watch a movie, meet with friends, or buy groceries. The Civil Rights movement put an end to segregation in LA, but South Central residents have been left in their poor economic state unable to move out of South Central with the outlandish housing prices elsewhere in LA.[7]

Dickey, Jeff. Los Angeles, 3rd Edition. Rough Guides, 2003. ISBN: 1843530589.

“South Los Angeles.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Los_Angeles>

[1] South
[2] Dickey, 144
[3] South
[4] Dickey, 144
[5] Id. at 145
[6] Id.
[7] Id. at 145-46

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