Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race


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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 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, most notably President Barack Obama.  At the same time, the film examines the complexities and contradictions of Bradley’s career as a bridge builder. Bridging the Divide 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 was nominated for a 2016 Los Angeles area Emmy® Award in the category of Best Independent Programming.

Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race was produced by Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Lyn Goldfarb and Emmy® Award-winner Alison Sotomayor. Narrated by Emmy® Award-winning actress Alfre Woodard.

For PBS SoCal

  • President & CEO: Andrew Russell
  • Station Manager: Ed Miskevich
  • Executive Producer of Program Development & National Productions: Brenda Brkusic
  • Program Development Coordinator: Michelle Merker

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