Ariela J. Gross is the John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History, and a co-director of the Center for Law, History, and Culture, at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana (2020) (with Alejandro de la Fuente); What Blood Won't Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America (2008) which was named a Choice outstanding academic title, co-winner of the James Willard Hurst Prize, and winner of the Lillian Smith Award and the American Political Science Association's Best Book on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics; and Double Character: Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom (2000). She is currently working on a study of race, law, and conservatism in post-World War II America, as well as a book on the uses of the history of slavery in contemporary law and politics. Gross’s work has been featured in popular media outlets, including the Washington Post, Zócalo Public Square, Lapham’s Quarterly, and El País.
This lecture uses Los Angeles as a case study to talk about post-World War II opposition to civil rights in grassroots battles over housing and schools. At the local level, opponents of civil rights shifted from emphasizing a “right to discriminate” to a more race-neutral “freedom of choice,” opposing race-conscious measures to combat inequality with colorblind conservatism, which was far more effective than violent resistance, and originated in places like California as well as Mississippi.