In this issue: The Summer of Love 50 years later... Inauguration protest art past and present... African Americans on the Overland Trails... LGBTQ history at Rosie the Riveter... California labor history... Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute... Food for thought for strange times.
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR
To the California Studies Association community,
If ever there was time for California to be a "great exception," in this case to the new administration's agenda, now seems to be that time. Thankfully our state leaders have stepped up to the task. In December, Governor Jerry Brown spoke to the American Geophysical Union. "We've got the scientists, we've got the lawyers, and we're ready to fight," Brown said, in response to Trump's anti-climate stance. University of California President Janet Napolitano has vowed to protect the state's undocumented students. Of course, it is not just California leading this struggle for civil rights and the environment, and it can't just be our leaders doing the hard work either. Our democracy needs active participation from every one of us!
I encourage you to contribute to your local and interest-based communities, and inspire others to do the same!
If You Go To San Francisco 50 Years Later Fifty years ago was the Summer of Love. This year's Bay Area art and history calendar is full of memorials to that other lifetime and discussions of what it changed permanently. Steering Committee member Peter Richardson is involved in several of the events, including a conference scheduled this summer. His writing on the anniversary includes a survey of the early counterculture news coverage that shaped perceptions and realities in San Francisco. Peter writes, "The long-term effects of the Summer of Love are various and undeniable. One can’t reckon with today’s urban landscape—with its yoga studios, organic markets, recycling centers, and marijuana dispensaries—without considering the Summer of Love and its long tail."
Commemorative events have begun. A Human Be-In anniversary celebration was sold out on January 14 -- (video here). The De Young Museum will host a talk on art in the Summer of Love February 23, and a talk by Peter Richardson on March 2 at the Legion of Honor.
But the major event will be a scholarly conference July 27-29 in San Francisco, with Peter among the organizers. Sponsors are Northwestern University, its Center for Civic Engagement, and the California Historical Society. Announced headliners, in addition to Peter Richardson and Northwestern Prof. Dan A. Lewis, include Fred Turner (Stanford University), David Farber (University of Kansas), Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo (St. Mary’s College), Robyn Spencer (Lehman College), Stephen Eisenman, Abe Peck and Michael Kramer (all three at Northwestern), Elizabeth Ferrell (Arcadia University). and Nicholas Meriwether, the Grateful Dead Archivist at UC-Santa Cruz.
The San Francisco Travel Association, promoting tourism for the occasion, has event listings. These include a California Historical Society exhibit starting in May.
Recently, in California
In a time of shifting politics, does it help to consider how California fits together?
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leόn wrote on November 10th: "California no era una parte de esta nación cuando comenzó su historia, pero ahora somos claramente los encargados de mantener su futuro." Shannon Matternwrote in PlacesJournal -- not strictly about California -- "Now more than ever, we need to create and defend vital spaces of information exchange."
And at the newly founded Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, the director, Ananya Roy, wrote November 16, "If we started with the aspiration to organize knowledge to challenge inequality, we recognize that we now must also build power to challenge violence, including state-sponsored violence against targeted bodies and communities."
The silk-screened posters shown above are the work of artist Anthony Ryan, adapting quotes from writers Sarah Kendzior and Masha Gessen, for the January 20-21 demonstrations.
As a reminder of history, Lincoln Cushing found a sample (at right) from the Nixon inauguration protest of 1972.
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Boom California posted a special call for proposals and submissions, saying, "In light of our fast-changing world, Boom’s emphasis has shifted to concentrate on California social issues, and to cultivate underrepresented writers in the California landscape. "
The NPS Tule Lake Unit General Management Plan proposal, which includes the administrative core of the wartime Tule Lake Segregation Center concentration camp, is open for comment until February 28.
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New audio and and video recordings available free online:
- Talks at the Reedley Peace Center: this past fall's "In the Struggle" speakers' series featuring distinguished academics and writers on Central Valley topics.
- ShapingSF public talks, audio only. Recent topics include urban ecology; the history of food co-ops; the 50th anniversary in October 2016 of the Compton's Cafeteria riot in San Francisco; the Hunter's Point riot; housing policy history; new scholarship on California Indian genocide, and much more. Listings for future events are here.
- Architect Glenn Lym's "Dogpatch Ranch: Origins of a Chinese American Family" tells the California immigrant success story of the filmmaker's great-grandfather, who was a crew chief on the original Transcontinental Railroad. The film is free on YouTube.
Review: Sweet Freedom’s Plains: African Americans on the Overland Trails, 1841 – 1869 By Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, University of Oklahoma Press, 2016
Review by Susan D. Anderson
(This review will appear in Montana: the Magazine of Western History, published by the Montana Historical Association.)
For too long, the portrayal of the mid-19th century westward expansion in the U.S. has been of a whites-only movement. For generations, academics as well as popular media – TV shows such as “Wagon Train” and Hollywood movies like “How the West Was Won” – reinforced the inaccuracy of this perception. In the last twenty years, however, a new body of scholarship has emerged, solidly placing African Americans in the West, and revealing the longstanding diverse racial template in the western states and territories.
In her study, Sweet Freedom’s Plains: African Americans on the Overland Trails, 1841 – 1869, CSU-Sacramento Professor Emerita and historian Shirley Ann Wilson Moore has produced a seminal work on the overlooked subject of African Americans who migrated west on overland trails during the years of Manifest Destiny and the Gold Rush.
Dr. Wilson Moore sets her examination against the backdrop of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction in the U.S. Sweet Freedom’s Plains is painstakingly researched, with a wealth of primary source citations. In rigorous, clear prose, the reader is introduced to a myriad of real life figures who trekked the Mormon, California, Oregon and lesser trails.
There were slaves among these African Americans; they accompanied their white owners as cooks, working the trails, and driving oxen. Many relied on the promise of manumission in the West.
Others were free, and sought new life for the same reasons as their white counterparts, chief among them the dream of unlimited economic opportunity, along with a desire to be free of restrictive black codes in their home states.
The book also analyzes the roles of those who facilitated the migration, including mountain guides such as the legendary James P. Beckwourth. In Missouri, African American entrepreneur Hiram Young, one of the wealthiest men in Jackson County, manufactured a popular conveyance for overlanders, known as Hiram Young wagons. Also profiled is Thomas H. Jefferson (who went by the name, Thomas Woodson), the eldest son of Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson, a cartographer who created the “Map of the Emigrant Road from Independence, to St. Francisco California and Accompaniment,” called by one historian, “one of the greatest American maps.”
“Sweet Freedom’s Plains” documents a rich, complex history of westward expansion through narratives related to African American pioneers who risked severe hardships and the unknown to find their fortunes in the West. As such, Dr. Wilson Moore’s compelling work marks a turning point in the scholarship of the overland trails. Susan D. Anderson is an author, speaker, and public historian, a member of the Steering Committee of the California Studies Association, and a member of the Program Committee of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association 2017 conference. Her book-in-progress, African Americans and the California Dream, will be published by Heyday Books.
Review: From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement By Fred Glass, University of California Press, 2016 Review by Lincoln Cushing
In this age of Trump, I’m going to keep this short and simple. Anyone involved in social justice work sooner or later finds her interests intersect with the labor movement. It goes from an abstract truism of “it certainly beats the alternative” to “I need to know what I’m talking about if I’m going to move the needle.”
There’s no better roadmap to this complex animal than Fred’s book.
Fred has been thinking, writing and teaching about the lessons of California labor for quite some time. In 1999 he produced a three-hour, ten-part video series through the CFT Labor in the Schools Committee titled “Golden Lands, Working Hands” – accompanied by a fat three-ring binder with teacher guidelines, segment summaries, sample discussion questions, bibliographies, and timelines.
This new book extends much of that previous research into a format easier to grab off the shelf and read. As the title indicates, it starts further back in time than one would expect in a conventional labor history book – for good reason, since Fred’s rich perspective on the class struggle precedes the rise of labor unions. And the evolution of those labor groups is presented in the complex way they deserve – usually as a response to exploitation, often narrowly focused to serve their members, and sometimes wildly reactionary toward disenfranchised social segments outside their scope. Until that changes for the better -- which, luckily for us, has generally been the trajectory.
The book is full of those contradictions. The ebb and flow of this slice of history, positioned against the larger backdrop of California governors, legislatures, and national politics, makes for dynamic reading. And because it shows responses to adversity as well as good times, it’s inspiring for the work ahead of us now.
Two more excellent reviews can be found here:
- Three-part interview by Jim Miller in the San Diego Free Press, 9/19/2016
- Review for California Federation of Teachers by Bill Morgan, teacher active in the Labor in the Schools Committee Lincoln is coauthor of Agitate! Educate! Organize! - American Labor Posters, Cornell University Press (2009) and, for a few years while a UC Berkeley librarian, was a proud member of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and picket walker with Fred.
Fred Glass on the job at UC Berkeley, 2002 (photo by Lincoln Cushing)
Foregrounding Hidden LGBTQ History at Rosie the Riveter
By Donna Graves
In December 2016, Richmond’s Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park opened an exhibit on LGBTQ histories in the Bay Area during WWII—one of the first exhibits on queer history in a U.S. national park. I’ve been closely involved with this national park since its conceptualization and have been pleased to observe (and participate) in fulfilling the park’s promise to convey the remarkable social changes on the home front and later transformations catalyzed by the war years.
As historian John D’Emilio wrote in 1983, “World War II was something of a nationwide coming-out experience. It properly marks the beginning of the nation’s, and San Francisco's, modern gay history.” My own conviction that LGBTQ history was an important topic for Rosie the Riveter to address was reinforced as I began work on the Citywide Historic Context Statement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History in San Francisco (co-authored with Shayne Watson).
Lead Ranger Elizabeth Tucker and others at Rosie the Riveter came to share my perspective and in 2014 the park announced our exhibit plans and issued a call for LGBTQ stories that drew national attention, including an article in Newsweek. Up to that point, the park’s collections did not include any materials about LGBTQ history.
Until recently, LGBTQ experiences were not well documented and collected; people faced very real threats if they were out — loss of friends, family, housing or employment, and even violence. So photos and other records of people’s lives from the WWII era are relatively scarce. This exhibit could not have been developed without the invaluable archives of the GLBT Historical Society and previous scholarship, especially Nan Alamilla Boyd’s Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 (UC Press, 2005).
The LGBTQ Home Front Histories exhibit will be on view in Richmond for six months and then travel. This comes at a time of extraordinary interest in queer history and the places where it can be told. At the exhibit’s opening, we were able to share the completed LGBTQ National Theme Study, recently completed by the National Park Service—a remarkable document that is part of NPS’s goal of “telling all Americans’ stories.” Donna Graves is a public historian based in Berkeley who develops interdisciplinary public history projects that emphasize social equity and sense of place.
Reading for uncertain times Our June "summer reading" list contained titles that may be of new interest now as guides to California's fracture lines and solidarities. Following are some other titles, new and old. Many, though not all, are responses to a query sent to Steering Committee members for reading recommendations to help a student bewildered by the news and political moods of late 2016.
Independent scholar Tim Stroshane has a new book out from the University of Nevada Press with an exciting title: Drought, Water Law, and the Origins of California’s Central Valley Project. It comes with a rave-review blurb from Chris Carlsson. Descriptions so far imply it could help guide journalists, activists and historians through the dripping cave of mysteries that lies between slightly dated general-reader works like Cadillac Desert and newer managerial documents.
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