CUPERTINO — The California History Center at De Anza College is presenting an exhibition based on the book “Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California” by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi (Heyday Books, 2009).
The exhibition, which was curated by the authors, opened Oct. 10 and runs through Dec. 2.
Fourteen interpretive panels of photographs and texts tell the stories of ordinary people capable of extraordinary acts, who fought violations of their civil liberties in California, reflecting the prejudices and political winds of the times.
These include Paul Robeson, who told the House Un-American Activities Committee, “You are the Un-Americans and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”
Anton Refregier’s colorful murals, targeted for destruction by a 1953 congressional inquisition but ultimately declared historically protected, depict the true stories of Indians at the missions, anti-Chinese riots, and labor strikes.
And in 1939, the Kern County Board of Supervisors banned John Steinbeck’s instant best-seller “Grapes of Wrath,” though 600 readers had already put it on reserve. “Banning books is so utterly hopeless and futile,” says Kern County’s librarian, Gretchen Knief. “Ideas don’t die because a book is forbidden reading.”
Hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m., and Friday by appointment. Admission is free. The campus is located at 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd. in Cupertino. For more information, contact Tom Izu at (408) 864-8986 or [email protected]
About the Book
“Wherever There’s a Fight” captures the sweeping story of how freedom and equality have grown in California, from the Gold Rush right up to the precarious post-9/11 era. The book tells the stories of the brave individuals who have stood up for their rights in the face of social hostility, physical violence, economic hardship, and political stonewalling.
It connects the experiences of early Chinese immigrants subjected to discriminatory laws to those of professionals who challenged McCarthyism and those of people who have fought to gain equal rights in California schools: people of color, people with disabilities, and people standing up for their religious freedom.
The authors bring a special focus to the World War II internment of Japanese Americans, focusing on the infamous Fred Korematsu case, which was foreshadowed by a century of civil liberties violations and reverberates in more recent times — even today in the Patriot Act. And they follow the ongoing struggles for workers’ rights and same-sex marriage.
State and federal constitutions spell out many liberties and rights, but it is the people who challenge prejudice and discrimination that transform those lofty ideals into practical realities. “Wherever There’s a Fight” paints vivid portraits of these people and brings to light their often hidden stories.
Elaine Elinson was the communications director of the ACLU of Northern California and editor of the ACLU News for more than two decades. She is a co-author of “Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines,” which was banned by the Marcos regime. Her articles have been published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, Poets and Writers, and numerous other periodicals.
Stan Yogi has managed development programs for the ACLU of Northern California since 1997. He is the co-editor of two books, “Highway 99: A Literary Journey Through California’s Great Central Valley” and “Asian American Literature: An Annotated Bibliography.” His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, MELUS, Los Angeles Daily Journal, and several anthologies.