University of Southern California

Graduate Students

Barbara Soliz

Contact Information


Biographical Sketch

Being in the Ph.D. program at USC has provided me the good fortune to both live in and study the city that I love. After completing my A.B. in History at Princeton University, I returned to the West Coast to begin my graduate school career and I am currently writing my dissertation, “Preserving Whiteness in a Diverse Metropolis: Political Struggles Over Race in Los Angeles, 1941-1973”, under the advisement of Dr. George Sanchez. This project examines how white liberals in Los Angeles confronted issues of race and racial conflict from WWII to the early 1970s, and illustrates how whiteness and white privilege served as important barriers to racial equality in the metropolitan arena. Having grown up in Los Angeles County, I am fascinated with the racial politics of the region—particularly the degree to which challenges evident in the mid- to late-20th century persist in contemporary politics despite claims of progress made. Along these lines, I am also at work on an article that I plan to submit for publication assessing the relationship between Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign and the Chicano community in Los Angeles. I welcome e-mail inquiries about my research or the Ph.D. program at USC, and can be reached at


  • B.A. History, Princeton Univ
  • M.A. History, University of Southern California


Summary Statement of Research Interests

  • My dissertation, "Preserving Whiteness in a Diverse Metropolis: Political Struggles Over Race in Los Angeles, 1941-1973" traces the development of white liberal politics in Los Angeles from WWII to the early 1970s and examines how a white identity shaped liberal efforts at addressing issues of race and racial conflict. Focusing on a political breed of racial liberals—white, middle-class, largely Democratic men and women—I assess their impact on race relations across Los Angeles through the movement for “interracialism” in the 1940s, moderate civil rights gains (and losses) in the 1950s, the turbulent racial dramas of the 1960s and the promotion of multiculturalism in the early 1970s, culminating with the election of Mayor Tom Bradley. I argue that conceptions of whiteness, white privilege, and racial difference were crucial components of what would become the mainstream support base for civil rights in metropolitan politics, such that white racial liberals were often more interested in managing race relations than improving them. While generally viewed in a positive light by historians, my dissertation illustrates how the mobilization of white politicians and activists in the name of anti-discrimination in the postwar era was significantly handicapped by the social and material benefits of racial inequality.

Research Specialties

  • 20th Century U.S. History, Political History, Race and Ethnicity, Whiteness, Metropolitan History

Conference Presentations

  • Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association Meeting, 8/2008
  • SSRC-Mellon Mays Graduate Student Conference, 6/2007
  • Chicana/o Graduate Student Colectiva Conference, UCSB, 10/2006
  • Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association Meeting, 8/2006
  • Crossing Borders Graduate Student Conference, 4/2006

Other Presentations

  • "Brown Bag Series on Western/Borderlands History", Huntington-USC ICW, Fall 2005   

Honors and Awards

  • Historical Society of Southern California/Haynes Foundation Summer Research Grant, 2009-2010  
  • Roberta Persinger Foulke Fellowship, USC Department of History, 6/2010-8/2010  
  • Mellon Mays Travel and Research Grant, 6/2009-8/2009  
  • Roberta Persinger Foulke Fellowship, USC Department of History (Summer), 2007-2008  
  • Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, 2002-2004