Bridges of Reform uncovers the early years of civil rights and the sophisticated ways it played out on the West Coast, a situation that radically differed from civil rights in the South and North. In this book, Shana Bernstein uses World War II and Cold War Los Angeles as a locus of civil rights activity and explores its roots in multiracial organizing. There, activists built multiracial collaborations, bringing together the Mexican-, Jewish-, African-, and Japanese-American populations. Later national civil rights legislation and Supreme Court rulings, as well as ethnic-specific community movements, emerged in part from these interracial efforts in Los Angeles. Detailed archival research reveals that significant domestic activism for racial equality persisted during the Cold War in the form of multiracial, anti-communist civil rights collaboration. The United States' global interests during World War II encouraged activists of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to join forces. The Cold War facilitated further coalition-building and the pursuit of ongoing racial equality goals as activists sought protection and legitimacy from each other in this conservative era.
From a city that incubated civil rights activism, Bernstein broadly connects West Coast activism with the domestic home front, the wars in Europe and Asia, and the onset of the Cold War, creating a unique study of comparative race, ethnicity, and civil rights.