Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race

About This Episode


Thirty-five years before Barack Obama’s election as President, the question of race and the possibility of bridging racial barriers were put to the test in an overlooked story in American politics: Tom Bradley’s 1973 election as Mayor of Los Angeles, the first African American to be elected mayor in a major U.S. city with an overwhelmingly white majority. It was a remarkable political first in the history of race and politics in America.

Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race tells the story of how Bradley’s coalition of African Americans, Jews, white liberals, Latinos and Asian Americans united a divided city, brought inclusion and access, and set the foundation for sustainable inter-racial coalitions that later encouraged the elections of minority candidates nationwide. At the same time, the film examines the complexities and contradictions of Bradley’s career as a bridge builder. It also brings into sharp focus the ways that white and minority communities regard the police, law and order and police abuse, and shows how Tom Bradley, a former police officer and a black mayor, could not break the cycles of poverty and despair that would ultimately spark the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest, and mark the end of his era.

Bridging the Divide is the story of multi-ethnic Los Angeles finding its voice and identity in the face of discrimination and political disenfranchisement. And it is the story of the challenges of diversity facing cities and nations, and the decisions we all must make.

Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race is presented by PBS SoCaL.