[Marxism] Fwd: Mike Davis: The Year 1960. New Left Review 108, November-December 2017.

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 21 09:06:49 MST 2017


Johnny Otis, the ‘godfather of rhythm and blues’, seemed to be 
everywhere in 1960. He had his own weekly TV and radio shows, a famous 
band that showcased local talent, and a popular column in the Sentinel, 
the largest of the city’s three Black newspapers. In the early fifties, 
however, his integrated concerts—he himself was Greek—had become the 
target of such intense LAPD harassment that he was forced to move them 
to an obscure venue in the eastern San Gabriel Valley. As an inadvertent 
result, the El Monte Legion Stadium became legendary as the birthplace 
of Chicano R&B. In 1958, Willie and the Hand Jive hit the Top Ten and 
introduced Otis to a new generation of teenagers. But he was almost as 
ubiquitous as a civil-rights activist as he was as a musician, 
songwriter and R&B impresario. Recently he had picketed a downtown 
Woolworth’s in solidarity with the Southern lunch-counter sit-ins, and 
he would soon file as a candidate in the race for the 63rd Assembly 
District, with the support of Loren Miller’s Eagle. [18]

On the evening of 14 March, he was at home with his four children, 
playing chess with a friend. His dog began to bark and then the phone 
rang. ‘Listen, you nigger, if you keep on writing about niggers taking 
white men’s jobs, this is just a sample of what you’re going to get. 
Look out on your lawn.’ There was a burning cross, Mississippi-style. 
Otis grabbed a shotgun. Meanwhile in Compton, fifteen minutes later, 
rocks shattered the front windows of John T. Williams’s home, terrifying 
his three children. Williams, one of the great unsung heroes of the 
1960s, was a Teamster activist who had taken up the cause of Andrew 
Saunders, a veteran union member and beer-truck driver recently arrived 
from Newark. Under the Teamster constitution Saunders had the right to 
transfer into Los Angeles Beer Local 203, and had been assured as much 
over the phone. But when officials discovered he was black, they sent 
him home. The Teamsters’ beer locals, bottlers as well as drivers, were 
already notorious for their opposition to Anheuser-Busch’s concession, 
after a nine-month consumer boycott by the NAACP, to allow Blacks to 
apply for jobs at its huge Van Nuys brewery. [19] Williams, with two 
other black Teamsters, Richard Morris and Willie Herron, spoke up 
strongly for Saunders at union hearings that Otis attended and then 
wrote about in his Sentinel column. A few days before the attacks on 
Otis’s and Williams’s homes, Saunders received a death threat from the 
‘White Citizens Council’. [20] Although Saunders, unlike Emory Holmes, 
had the backing of courageous activists, his case demonstrated that 
resistance to equal-employment opportunity in Los Angeles could become 
just as violent as opposition to open housing.

full: https://newleftreview.org/II/108/mike-davis-the-year-1960



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