Watts is located on the 1843 Rancho La Tajauta land grant. Charles Watts bought a 220-acre parcel in 1886 to grow alfalfa and raise livestock. With the arrival of Mexican and Mexican American railroad workers and steady growth, the area was incorporated as a separate city. But in 1926, residents voted to be annexed to their big northern neighbor, Los Angeles.
During the 1940s, Watts became predominantly black, with Pullman car porters and cooks along with African Americans from the south settling there. Starting in the 1980s, Mexican and Central American immigrants began a demographic third wave that has continued until today.
Watts remains impoverished, populated by people of color. And in the housing developments, gangs, poor performing schools and drug dealing are still facts of life:
LA County has 14 housing developments, four of which fall within Watts;The three largest are Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts and Jordan Downs;Nickerson Gardens is both the largest and also the poorest of all the housing developments in LA County;Overall, the four housing developments in Watts make up four of the six poorest developments in the county;Each development has strong gang ties which causes significant safety issues for all residents in the area;Only 1.5 percent of residents hold a four-year degree, with 33 percent having a high school diploma;
Jordan high school has a 43.7 percent drop-out rate;The average income at these three housing development sites is just under $14,000 a year;The poverty rate at the developments is approximately 64 percent;Watts has the lowest life expectancy rate in the state of California.
Information from HACLA (the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles).