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Abstract

This paper focuses on the Bum Blockade, a little known policy implemented by Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief James Edgar Davis in early February 1936 to keep migrants out of California with a border patrol and to deport migrants already inside California to other states. This research is designed to analyze the scope and public perception of the LAPD’s treatment of Dust Bowl migrants both inside and outside of its formal jurisdiction. This topic has been mostly overlooked in past examinations of this time period, and is crucial to understanding the reactions of many local authorities in the United States to the crisis of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl migrations. The objective of this research is to explore a new facet of social conflict during this critical period in American history that includes issues of interstate migration, citizenship rights, state rights, and interstate conflict. The influence of print media on the community’s support of the Bum Blockade will be analyzed as well as the crucial role of the Los Angeles Police Department and California government more generally. This paper concludes that the Bum Blockade revealed the extreme desire for Los Angeles to remain demographically homogenous, and the community’s ability to racialize class status in order to reinforce previously strong racist attitudes toward outsiders.

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