At the beginning of the 20th century, the Antelope Valley was a small farming town, struggling to find ways to irrigate crops and build a stable economic base. Five decades later, it was a major site of military aerospace investment in Los Angeles County, which fueled the rapid development of its neighborhoods, roads, schools, highways, and more. That historical transformation is described below, and it is part of the story of why Black Los Angeles residents moved to the Antelope Valley.
In 1941, the Civil Aeronautics Authority, Works Progress Administration, and U.S. Army selected Palmdale as the site for a major airport and aviation training school, setting it on the path of military development that would shape its next several decades.
In the next few years, Muroc Air Field was transformed into Edwards Air Force Base, Lockheed, Boeing, and other aerospace giants built warehouses and moved employees to the region, and waves of funding paid for infrastructure, financed a major housing boom, and rapidly built a middle class society in the valley.
In 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 plane. It was a national moment that brought the Antelope Valley to broader attention. Its reputation as a Mecca for “space cowboys” was cemented, and would later be celebrate in the film “The Right Stuff.”
Another development in 1941, however, changed the trajectory of the Antelope Valley’s development. The Fair Employment Practices Commission ruled that government contractors could not racially discriminate in hiring. And so as the military industrial development of the valley proceeded, it also began to employ and attract a Black community into the valley.
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