California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

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Strikes, smog, and steel – Fontana, 1972

I have an interesting job – I’m an archivist who gets to write history for a national health care organization. Here is a story I recently put up on our blog that looks at the intersection of corporate public relations and public health. Sometimes (Hell, usually) history is complicated.

“Can heavy industry be a good neighbor? That was one of the challenges facing the Kaiser Steel plant in Fontana, California, in 1972.” Read more here.

Lincoln Cushing
Digital Archivist
Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources

"Aerial photographs during the strike" Kaiser Steel, Fontana 1972

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Book Review: A Trayvon of another time….

Author and UCLA historian Brenda Stevenson had no way of knowing that her new book, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins:  Justice Gender and the Origins of the L.A. Riots, would be so tragically timely.  The headlines she dissects could have been written about the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida – but this innocent teen was gunned down more than two decades ago in a corner store in Compton.

Brenda Stevenson, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice Gender and the Origins of the L.A. Riots, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Book Cover: The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins (2013)

Book Cover: The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins (2013)

Review by Elaine Elinson

The unarmed African American teenager was shot and killed.  The shooter, claiming self-defense, served not one minute of jail time.

The sorrow, anger and disbelief in the Black community was palpable.  One mother wrote to the daily newspaper that she feared the justice system has “told us it is open season on our children.”

This might have been last month’s headline about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder case in Florida.  It actually happened more than two decades ago, across the country in Los Angeles.

Just two weeks after the brutal beating of Rodney King Continue reading

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New book on California’s coast

Richmond author and environmental activist Dave Helvarg will release his newest title from St. Martin’s Press, The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea,  February 19th. He’ll be doing book tours up and down the state, look for him.



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Activism and the LA Riots

GlobalGrind featured a thought-provoking piece in the wake of last spring’s 20th anniversary of the L.A. Riots and last weekend’s #IgniteLA: Uprising Remixed, “a celebration of community organizing in South Los Angeles since the Los Angeles Riots.”

In this post by Rob Biko Baker the author muses about the meanings of 1992 both then and now, as a new generation of activists rises to the still lingering challenges from the past:

It’s been 20 years, but the summer of 1992 is indelibly etched in my brain. While Los Angeles’ fiery rebellion happened 2,000 miles away from my stomping grounds on Milwaukee’s far northwest side, the rage that pushed South Central Los Angeles residents to tear up their communities was very familiar to me.


As a 14-year-old boy growing into his manhood in one of America’s most segregated cities, I understood very well that people of color faced unprecedented discrimination. By the time I graduated the 8th grade, street gangs, police brutality, and a rapid uptick of violent crime became prominent features of my midwestern hometown.

In many ways, Milwaukee was just like Compton, Watts and every other black and brown working class neighborhood in California’s most densely-populated county.


But it wasn’t just the Rodney King verdict and its violent aftermath that resonated with me. The hip-hop music emanating from South Central Los Angeles stirred my and my friends’ souls and challenged us to think critically about our surroundings.

The entire piece can be read at GlobalGrind.