Station 7

Civil Rights Forebears

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it.”

– Paul Robeson before the House of Un-American Activities (1956)

Against the heightened conservatism of the 1950s, music and art subcultures, early civil rights activists, and LGBTQ groups laid foundations for future civil rights movements. Targeted by  McCarthyism, these groups put their safety, community, livelihood, and freedom at risk to challenge norms. 

During this period, gains made by women during WWII were rolled back dramatically. On the far left, Rosie the Riveter clings to her role as a working woman, fighting the re-imposition of traditional gender roles.

White middle-class families leave the urban city in droves for the suburbs.

The continuation of racial covenants and discrimination keep communities of color out of suburbs.   

The Red Scare and McCarthyism blankets the U.S. Joseph McCarthy, a conservative Senator, leads public hearings condemning so-called Communists and their sympathizers as un-American.

Among these were the “Hollywood Ten,” a group of producers, directors, writers, and actors that were blacklisted, shunned, fined, and jailed for refusing to incriminate their friends and colleagues. They represent the thousands of others who suffered similar attacks. 

In the mural, new Los Angeles freeways encircle and divide a Mexican American family. Freeways built for suburban workers devastated ethnic working-class communities.

A police officer restrains Mrs. Arbana Arechiga as she fights the destruction of La Loma, Palo Verde, and Bishop, later known collectively as Chavez Ravine. Thousands were evicted and displaced initially to make room for affordable housing.

However, the project was demonized as socialist and the land was eventually privatized and developed into Dodger Stadium. An alien UFO-like stadium hovers over the vacated ravine, having abducted and disappeared its residents and their communities. 

While Elvis Presley steals center stage, portraits of Chuck Berry, Charlie Parker, and Big Mama Thornton pay homage to the Black musicians and creators crucial to the birth of rock ’n’ roll.

Referencing a work by artist Charles White, a Black woman uplifts South Los Angeles, reflecting the consistent community activism of everyday Black women in volunteer sororities and church organizations.

Forebears of the civil rights movement, Paul Robeson, Rosa Parks, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Bunche and Martin Luther King Jr. make their way to the front of the bus. To the right of Rosa Parks, police violently push the gay community back into the closet. 

Early California organizations like the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society fought for LGBTQ rights, operating behind closed doors to avoid persecution. In a gay bar, men envision the life they desire, while risking police entrapment.

As artists, the Beats challenged traditional values. Openly gay Beat poet Allen Ginsberg recites his famous poem, Howl. Behind him a garment worker’s cloth becomes a film reel referencing Jewish contributions to the film and garment industries in the 1950s.

Scientist Albert Einstein holds an atom, revealing his reservations about atomic power and his desire that it be used for peaceful purposes

Forced assimilation and urban relocation programs sought to deprive Native Americans of their traditional cultural practices and homelands.

A government official strips Billy Mills, one of hundreds of thousands of Native children the U.S. removed from their homes and placed in boarding schools, of his traditional dress and cuts his hair.

A government official strips Billy Mills, one of hundreds of thousands of Native children the U.S. removed from their homes and placed in boarding schools, of his traditional dress and cuts his hair.

A Korean obtaining US citizenship and a Japanese farmer in his newly purchased field speak to the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which ended citizenship bans against Japanese and Korean communities, reflecting an end to federal anti-Asian exclusion laws and allowed Asians to gain citizenship and property. Though it reflected an end to federal anti-Asian exclusion laws, it still severely restricted Asian immigration into the U.S.

Mills, a Dakota Oglala marathon runner, became an Olympian. He is pictured alongside Olympians Vicky Manalo Draves, Sammy Lee, and Wilma Rudolf. 

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