Sat., Oct. 1: Boyle Heights History Night at Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights’ lending library/book shop Libros Schmibros will host a conversation with author/historian George Sanchez about the history of the neighborhood, co-hosted by the Boyle Heights Historical Society, and featuring a celebration of the new book Barrio Doctor by Pauline Furth — who probably delivered a goodly fraction of all living Boyle Heights-born adults. The event starts at 7 PM.

Libros Schmibros is located at 2000 1st Street in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

For more information click here.

This event is one of six weeks of events at both the Hammer Museum and at Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights that are part of the Hammer’s hosting of Libros Schmibros as part of the Hammer’s Public Engagement program.  For more information about the entire program, click here.  For the Libros Schmibros website, click here.

Oct. 7 at the Huntington: Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez on Race, Ethnicity and Class in the San Gabriel Valley

The first meeting of the LA History & Metro Studies Group will take place on Friday, October 7, 2011 at 12 noon, at the Huntington Library.  The presenter will be Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez, Associate Professor of Sociology at Whittier College, who will be speaking about her paper, “Moving On Up: Race, Ethnicity, and Class Obstacles to Community and Regional Organizing in the San Gabriel Valley.” (Advance copies of the paper are available by contacting the coordinators at the email addresses listed below.)

The group will meet in Seaver Classrooms 1 & 2 in the Munger Research Center at the Huntington Library, starting at 12 noon.  Lunch will be available to those who RSVP by October 4.  If you would like to attend, please RSVP at this link.

If you have questions, contact the coordinators:

Becky Nicolaides                                    David Levitus
bnicolaides@ucla.edu                           levitus@usc.edu

The LA History & Metro Studies Group is generously sponsored by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West (ICW)

Next California Studies Dinner Nov. 17: Tony Platt speaking about Berkeley’s Role in the Looting of Native Gravesites

The next California Studies dinner will take place Nov. 17, 2011 in Berkeley; the speaker will be Tony Platt, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Sacramento; the title of his talk is “10,000 Skeletons in the Basement:  Berkeley’s Role in the Looting of Native Gravesites.” 

TIME & PLACE

Nov. 17, 2011
7 :00 p.m. – 10 :00 p.m.
Director’s Room, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2521 Channing St.(just above Telegraph Ave).

The dinner is buffet style. Dinners are free, but a small donation is requested from those partaking of wine and beverages.

PLEASE RSVP by Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, to Delores Dillard, Department of Geography, 507 McCone Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA  94720-4740 phone (510)  642-3903 or FAX (510) 642-3370, or e-mail: deloresd@berkeley.edu

Thu., Sept. 29: Thomas Pynchon’s L.A. Trilogy at Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights’ lending library/book shop Libros Schmibros will host a conversation with House of Leaves and Only Revolutions author Mark Z. Danielewski about Thomas Pynchon’s three L.A. novels (not counting Gravity’s Rainbow, which concludes in Southern California, where it was written). According to Libros Schmibros, “expect special guests.”

The event starts at 7 PM.

Libros Schmibros is located at 2000 1st Street in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

For more information click here.

This event is one of six weeks of events at both the Hammer Museum and at Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights that are part of the Hammer’s hosting of Libros Schmibros as part of the Hammer’s Public Engagement program.  For more information about the entire program, click here.  For the Libros Schmibros website, click here.

Next California Studies Dinner Oct. 19: Frank Gruber speaking about Convulsive Urbanism in 1950s Santa Monica

The next California Studies dinner will take place Oct. 19, 2011 in Berkeley; the speaker will be Frank Gruber, columnist for the Santa Monica Lookout News; the title of his talk is “The Destruction of the Belmar Triangle:  A case of convulsive urbanism” Mr. Gruber will discuss the destruction of an African-American community neighborhood through urban redevelopment in Santa Monica during the 1950s, to build the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

TIME & PLACE

October 19, 2011
7 :00 p.m. – 10 :00 p.m.
Director’s Room, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2521 Channing St.(just above Telegraph Ave).

The dinner is buffet style. Dinners are free, but a small donation is requested from those partaking of wine and beverages.

PLEASE RSVP by Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, to Delores Dillard, Department of Geography, 507 McCone Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA  94720-4740 phone (510)  642-3903 or FAX (510) 642-3370, or e-mail: deloresd@berkeley.edu

Laura Cunningham to speak at UCLA Oct. 27 on “A State of Change: California’s Forgotten Landscapes”

Author and artist Laura Cunningham will give a talk Oct. 27 at UCLA about what California looked like long ago, based on her 2010 Heydey Press book, A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California. From the event announcement:

With paintings and historical accounts, ecologist and author Laura Cunningham leads us on an exploration of California’s early ecosystems and denizens. By visiting the forgotten past, we gain deeper insights into the future of California’s ever-changing landscapes.  Based on her new book, A State of Change.

The event takes place at the UCLA California Nanosystems Institute Auditorium. For more information, and to register for the event, click here.

Autry to host symposium Oct. 9: “Becoming Mexican American and Beyond”

On October 9th, the Autry National Center, in anticipation of its upcoming exhibition, Art Along the Hyphen: The Mexican American Generation, will host a one day symposium: “Becoming Mexican American and Beyond.”  The conference will consider the impact of George Sanchez’s seminal 1993 book Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945.

Schedule

11 AM Welcome — Stephen Aron, UCLA and Autry National Center

Keynote Speaker—George Lipsitz, University of California, Santa Barbara

Noon-1:30 Lunch

1:30-2:45: Panel Discussion

Anthony Macias, University of California, Riverside
Natalia Molina, University of California, San Diego
Jerry Gonzalez, University of Texas, San Antonio
Gabriela Arrendondo, University of California, Santa Cruz

3 PM-4PM: Conversation between William Deverell, University of Southern California, and George Sanchez, University of Southern California

Reservations required. Please contact Belinda Nakasato Suarez at bnakasato@theautry.org to reserve your ticket. Museum admission rates apply / Free for Autry members. Payment is due on the day of the event.

This conference is part of a series of programs being presented in conjunction with the Autry’s exhibition Art Along the Hyphen: The Mexican-American Generation, which explores a seminal but overlooked generation of artists who started working in Los Angeles between the turn of the century and the end of the 1960s.

Art Along the Hyphen is part of a unique four-exhibition project called L.A. Xicano, organized by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center in partnership with the Autry National Center, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Other concurrent exhibitions include Icons of the Invisible: Oscar Castillo (Fowler), Mapping Another L.A.: The Chicano Art Movement (Fowler), and MuralRemix: Sandra de la Loza (LACMA).

New exhibit at Calif. Historical Society: Oyster Farm, featuring the documentary photography of artist Evvy Eisen, opening Oct. 27

From October 27, 2011 to January 19, 2012, the California Historical Society will host the exhibit Oyster Farm, featuring the documentary photography of artist Evvy Eisen. Evvy Eisen’s photographs will be accompanied by pieces of ephemera and other materials from the rich collections of the California Historical Society. From the CHS’s announcement:

When discussing Oyster Farm, Evvy Eisen explains, “I set out to photograph the workers at the Drakes Bay Oyster Company because they are part of our community, though few of us have ever seen them or understand what they do. They stood before my camera, with dignity and patience. Their portraits communicate information specific to these individuals, but also illuminate essential aspects of the universal human condition.”

The Drakes Bay Oyster Company is located on Drakes Estero in the Point Reyes National Seashore in western Marin County. It is also currently the center of a controversy about whether it will be permitted to remain in operation after 2012. Opposing positions have divided the community and have been argued at the state and national levels as well. This exhibit does not deal with the complex issues involved in these disagreements. Rather it focuses on the people who work at the oyster farm, who are silent and stoic in the face of an uncertain future. Their portraits communicate information specific to them but also illuminate essential aspects of the universal human condition and reveal unrecognized facets of daily life at the Drakes Bay Oyster Company. This exhibit creates a place where differences can be set aside, and where the people portrayed can be appreciated in a new light.

Evvy Eisen was born and educated in New York City and has lived and worked in Marin County since 1971. She specializes in environmental portraits and often works on long-term projects, portraying the people involved in socially relevant issues.

Please join us for the Oyster Farm opening reception on November 16 at 5:30 p.m. and meet artist Evvy Eisen. The event is free and open to the public.

Oyster Farm is on view at the California Historical Society from October 27, 2011 through January 19, 2012. For more information about this exhibition visit http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org.

Calif. Supreme Court Historical Society Symposium Oct. 5 in Los Angeles: “Direct Democracy, the Cause of California’s Problems or the Solution?”

The California Supreme Court Historical Society has  announced its 2011 symposium, “Direct Democracy, the Cause of California’s  Problems or the Solution?” to be held in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday evening, October 5, 2011.  The symposium will focus on the initiative and referendum process in California, which marks its 100th anniversary in October.  Among the featured speakers will be former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.

The symposium is being cosponsored by the Society, Zócalo Public Square and the League of Women Voters.  Attendance is free, but reservations are required.  MCLE credit will be provided.

To download an announcement for detailed information about the time, place and panelists, click here.

To make a reservation, click here.

For more information, contact:

Chris Stockton  Director of Administration
California Supreme Court Historical Society
E-Mail: cstockton@pesc.com
Ph: (800) 353-7537
Fax: (559) 227-1463

Red in black and white: The New Left printing renaissance of the 1960s – and beyond

In conjunction with the PEACE PRESS GRAPHICS 1967-1987: Art in the Pursuit of Social Change show at the University Art Museum at CSU-Long Beach, archivist of graphics and author (and current chair of the CSA Steering Committee) Lincoln Cushing has published an essay entitled, “Red in black and white: The New Left printing renaissance of the 1960s – and beyond.” The essay appears in the catalog for the show, and is also available online.

From the essay:

The advent of relatively low-cost office spirit duplicators and mimeograph machines [4] democratized the lowest end of printing, and made it possible for unions, churches, and community groups to produce crude flyers composed on typewriters. But the trickier and larger jobs were still in the domain of professionals who had the skills and equipment. Occasionally a sympathetic shop or press operator could slip out a surreptitious tract, but for all intents and purposes public printed agitational documents like posters vanished from the landscape. It’s a remarkable fact that the Civil Rights movement and the Free Speech Movement of 1964 relied on almost every medium but posters.

What broke the ice for posters were the free handbills produced for the San Francisco rock concerts starting in 1965. All of a sudden, people realized what they didn’t know they were missing – vibrant, powerful graphics they could put on a wall. And the underground newspapers were doing crazy thing with graphics. Cultural forces preceded political ones, which interestingly was happening about the same time in Cuba. The majority of posters produced by government agencies after the 1959 revolution had been relatively stiff and boring until visionary publicist Saúl Yelin at the Cuban Film Institute transformed the entire concept of a film poster. He encouraged a style where the graphic art emphasized the film’s content rather than the film’s stars, and dozens of idealistic and talented artists applied their professional skills to this new enterprise. The other Cuban propaganda agencies took note. That happened here too.

The first glimmer of the new generation of activist print shops started in 1964 in the heat of the Free Speech Movement. The Free Speech Movement Newsletter was first printed on a 14” x 20” Multilith 2066 by Duard Hastings, in the basement of a home later demolished to make People’s Park. The press was owned by Dunbar Aitken, publisher of the occasional science journal Particle, but Dunbar was evicted by his landlord for printing “communist papers,” and they briefly moved the operation to the basement of Lewin’s Metaphysical Books (Ashby and College) before settling into a propitious storefront on the 1700 block of Grove Street (now Martin Luther King Jr.)

Thu., Sept. 15: Lower Left Blue: L.A. Cartography at Libros Schmibros at the Hammer

Libros Schmibros at the Hammer will host a conversation about L.A. maps with author/LA Public Library librarian Glen Creason (Maps of Los Angeles) and artist J. Michael Walker (All the Saints in the City of Angels), whose painted map of the city graces the western wall of Libros Schmibros at the Hammer. The event starts at 5:30 PM.

The Hammer Museum is located at 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, at Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles 90024.

For more information click here.

This event is one of six weeks of events at both the Hammer Museum and at Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights that are part of the Hammer’s hosting of Libros Schmibros as part of the Hammer’s Public Engagement program.  For more information about the entire program, click here.  For the Libros Schmibros website, click here.

Table of Contents for Spring 2011 Issue of Southern California Quarterly

The Table of Contents for the Spring 2011 issues of Southern California Quarterly, the journal of the Historical Society of Southern California is the following:

ARTICLES

 JOHN WORK, J. J. WARNER, AND THE NATIVE AMERICAN CATASTROPHE OF 1833, By Peter Ahrens

TOWARD AN ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE BOOK; THE NATURE OF HUBERT HOWE BANCROFT’S WORKS, By Thomas G. Andrews

“I AM ALMOST MORE AT HOME WITH BROWN FACES THAN WITH WHITE”; AN AMERICANIZATION TEACHER IN IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, 1923-1924, By Benny J. Andrés Jr.

THE HISTORIAN’S EYE

 BOOK REVIEWS

Pubols, The Father of All: The de La Guerra Family, Power, and Patriarchy in Mexican California, by Linda Heidenreich

Eisenberg, Kahn, and Toll, Jews of the Pacific Coast: Reinventing Community on America’s Edge, by Arlene Lazarowitz

Wallis, Earning Power: Women and Work in Los Angeles, 1880-1930, by Sherry J. Katz

McNamara, The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Los Angeles, by David Fine

Nelson, Wheels of Change from Zero to 600 MPHThe Amazing Story of California and the Automobile, by Jen Staver

Gerth, The People’s University: History of the California State University, by John T. Donovan

Carriker, Urban Farming in the West: A New Deal Experiment in Subsistence Homesteads, by Eric Steiger

Widener, Black Arts West: Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los Angeles, by LaNitra Berger

IN MEMORIAM: DOYCE BLACKMAN NUNIS JR., 1924-2011

 REMEMBERING DOYCE BLACKMAN NUNIS JR.

Table of Contents for Summer 2011 Issue of Southern California Quarterly

The Table of Contents for the Summer 2011 issue of Southern California Quarterly, the journal of the Historical Society of Southern California is the following:

ARTICLES

LOCATING ABSENCE: THE FORGOTTEN PRESENCE OF MONJERIOS IN ALTA CALIFORNIA MISSIONS, by Chelsea K. Vaughn .

NAVIGATING THE FLUID BOUNDARY; THE LOWER COLORADO RIVER STEAMBOAT ERA, 1851-1877 by Eric Boime

BRONZEVILLE, LITTLE TOKYO, AND THE UNSTABLE GEOGRAPHY OF RACE IN POST-WORLD WAR II LOS ANGELES, by Hillary Jenks

THE HISTORIAN’S EYE

 

BOOK REVIEWS

Salomon, Pio Pico: The Last Governor of Mexican California, by William David Estrada

Boessenecker, Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez, by David Miller

Sitton, Grand Ventures: The Banning Family and the Shaping of Southern California, by Nicolas G. Rosenthal

Limerick, Cowell, and Collinge, Remedies for a New West: Healing Landscapes, Histories, and Cultures, by Char Miller

Scharffand Brucken, Home Lands: How Women Made the West, by Michelle E. Jolly

Olsson, Los Angeles Before Hollywood: Journalism and American Film Culture, 1905 to 1915, by Paul Kahan, 251

Vanderwood, Satan’s Playground: Mobsters and Movie Stars at America’s Greatest Gaming Resort, by Alicia Barber

Worthen, The Young Nixon and His Rivals: Four Republicans Eye the White House, 1946-1958, by Donna M. Binkiewicz

Thu., Sept. 8: Ruben Martinez and . . . Rueben Martinez at Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights’ lending library/book shop Libros Schmibros will host “Will the Real Ruben Martinez Please Stand Up?,” a conversation between namesakes, featuring author/scholar/broadcaster Ruben Martinez (The Other Side/El otro lado) and the Boyle Heights-bred, Santa Ana-based MacArthur award-winning bookseller Rueben Martinez.. The event starts at 7 PM.

Libros Schmibros is located at 2000 1st Street in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

For more information click here.

This event is one of six weeks of events at both the Hammer Museum and at Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights that are part of the Hammer’s hosting of Libros Schmibros as part of the Hammer’s Public Engagement program.  For more information about the entire program, click here.  For the Libros Schmibros website, click here.

San Gabriel Mission’s History Forum: Saturday, October 1, 2011

The CSA Blog has received the following announcement for this year’s History Forum at the San Gabriel Mission:

San Gabriel Mission and

Jonathan Heritage Foundation

Invite You To

San Gabriel Mission’s History Forum

Saturday, October 1, 2011    10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

Dr. James A. Sandos

Farquhar Professor of the Southwest, University of Redlands

Patricia Sandos, Independent Scholar

“Spanish Music in California’s Missions:

Little known, Unexpected and Unforgettable”

 One of the most respected mission historians, Dr. Sandos and his wife Patricia have researched the lives of mission instrumentalists and found that participation in musical performance had powerful social impacts upon Indian community development beyond the conventional consideration of historians and musicologists. They will examine the impact of Spanish ritual music in the missions and will feature audio examples of both tribal and liturgical song.

Dr. Kristine Ashton Gunnell

Claremont Graduate University

“Modernizing the Mission: The Daughters of Charity and

Sisters’ Hospital, Los Angeles, 1880-1920”

Using Sisters’ Hospital in Los Angeles as a case study, Dr. Ashton Gunnell analyzes the ways that women-led charity hospitals negotiated the challenges associated with scientific modernization of their institutions, while also maintaining a commitment to their traditional mission of caring for the poor. These religious women sought to incorporate “modern” medical practices to attract more paying patients. By doing so, the Daughters of Charity modernized their mission, balancing the demands of medical businesses with humanitarian impulses to care for the poor.

 Moderated by John Macias, San Gabriel Mission parishioner and

Ph.D. Candidate in History, Claremont Graduate University

 This event is an opportunity for the public to interact with historians in an informal

setting so that everyone can share information and learn more about history!

This special event is FREE, but seating is LIMITED.

Reserve your seat by calling 626-457-3048 no later than September 23.

Persons age 17 and younger MUST be with a parent or guardian age 18 or older.

Enter at mission’s gift shop to check in.

Calif. Council for the Humanities sponsors touring exhibition based on “Wherever There’s a Fight”

The California Council for the Humanities  (CCH) is touring a lively, easy-to-use exhibit based on the book Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California, co-authored by (CSA Steering Committee member) Elaine Elinson (with Stan Yogi), published by Heyday Books. Spanning the period from the Gold Rush to the post-9/11 era, the exhibition tells the hidden stories of unsung heroes and heroines throughout California who stood up for their rights in the face of social hostility, physical violence, economic hardship, and political stonewalling.

The exhibit, which is part of the CCH year-long program Searching for Democracy,  educates audiences about the evolution of civil liberties and civil rights in California and how they are central to democracy. Stories of personal struggle demonstrate the ongoing fight and provide a framework through which current controversies can be debated.

The current schedule for the exhibition is as follows:

October 9, 2011 – December 4, 2011 California History Center, DeAnza College, Cupertino
December 18, 2011 – February 12, 2012 CSU Bakersfield, Bakersfield
February 26, 2012 – April 22, 2012 Cerro Corso Community College, Ridgecrest
May 6, 2012 – July 1, 2012 Booking Pending
July 15, 2012 – September 9, 2012 Museum on Main, Pleasanton
September 23, 2012 – November 18, 2012 Booking Pending
December 2, 2012 – January 27, 2013 Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, Vallejo

For a look at the highlights of the exhibit and for booking information for your campus, library, or historical society, click here.

Sat., Sept. 3: Jerome Vered’s Crosstown L.A. History Trivia Night at Libros Schmibros and Libros Schmibros at the Hammer

As part of the six-week “residency” of Boyle Heights’ lending library/book shop Libros Schmibros at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, and to mark the occasion of the new reissue of Los Angeles in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to Los Angeles, Libros Schmibros in both its Boyle Heights location and at it temporary digs at the Hammer will host a two-part trivia quiz created by Jeopardy! champ Jerome Vered. Contestants will be able to compete in the first round at the Hammer at 4 PM and/or in the second round in Boyle Heights at 7 PM. But note: Hammer and Boyle Heights scores will be combined to determine the ultimate champ. Attend both to win!

For more information click here.

This event is one of six weeks of events at both the Hammer and at Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights that are part of the Hammer’s hosting of Libros Schmibros as part of the Hammer’s Public Engagement program.  For more information about the entire program, click here.  For the Libros Schmibros website, click here.

Elaine Elinson reviews Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, by Erika Lee and Judy Yung

Blog editor’s note: Elaine Elinson has forwarded the CSA blog the following review of a new book about immigration through Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay. The blog is open to submissions of reviews of other relevant books.

 

Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, By Erika Lee and Judy Yung

Reviewed by Elaine Elinson

 

In the last month of summer, I arrived in America on ship.

After crossing the ocean, the ship docked and I waited to go on shore.

Because of the records, the innocent was imprisoned in a wooden building.

Reflecting on the event, my heart is vexed and depressed.

I composed a poem to rid myself of sadness and worry…

Sitting here, uselessly delayed for long years and months, I am like a pigeon in a cage.

 

This anonymous poem found carved into the walls of the men’s detention barracks at Angel Island, captures the anguish faced by many of those who passed through the West Coast’s most famous immigration station.

From 1910 until it was closed in 1940, half a million people stopped first on Angel Island before being allowed onto the shore at San Francisco.  Another half million caught their last glimpse of the United States from the island off the coast of San Francisco as they were deported.

Thanks to the work of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, the site is now a National Historic Landmark. The Chinese poems first recovered by U.S. Park Ranger Alexander Weiss in 1970 just before the building was to be destroyed, give a glimpse into the experiences of the 100,000 Chinese who were detained there, the largest immigrant group to pass through Angel Island.

But a new book by Erika Lee and Judy Yung.  Angel Island:  Immigrant Gateway to America,(Oxford University Press) for the first time uncovers the history of the wide range of immigrants who landed there from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.  Aging photographs show Japanese women in kimonos, an African woman wrapped in patterned cloth holding her two children, a Turkish mother and son, and Sikh men in suits and turbans.

In addition to the treasure trove of 187 Chinese poems, now carefully preserved and translated, the authors examined another 156 inscriptions in Japanese, Korean Russian, Punjabi, Spanish, Italian, German and English.

Exclusion not admission

Though it is often called the “Ellis Island of the West,” Lee and Yung point out that the Angel Island Immigration Station was designed “with exclusion, not admission” in mind.  No Statue of Liberty greeted the hopeful immigrants fleeing from hunger, war and political chaos in their home countries.  There was no plea for the “huddled masses” to enter the lamp-lit “golden door.”   Instead they faced harsh interrogation – sometimes lasting for weeks — grueling medical inspections, and bleak quarters, segregated by race and gender, all designed to prevent the newcomers from entering the country. If they did succeed in gaining entry, the law barred citizenship for those of Asian ancestry.

Lee and Yung argue that the immigration station itself was mainly built to enforce the Chinese exclusion laws of the late 1800s, culminating in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  Previously there had been an “open door” immigration policy, but as more and more restrictive laws were enacted, the growing number of new arrivals could not be contained at the rickety wharf side detention shed or in steerage quarters on steamships docked in San Francisco Bay.  The crowded, inhumane conditions put political pressure on the government to build a new immigration station for persons arriving from Asia.

On opening day, January 21, 1910, the authors describe how 101 Chinese detainees and “one gloomy Hindu” were brought from the detention shed to the island barracks. More than 400 others were transferred from steamships in the harbor. These were the first of the estimated one million people who were kept there over the next three decades.

Their personal stories are the heart of the book.  Though the authors have a commanding knowledge of immigration law and the U.S. national interests and changing international politics that shaped it, the most fascinating aspect of this book is the richly detailed examination of the lives of those who came from all corners of the earth to this island.

The stories of Angel Island powerfully illustrate how race, class and gender have all shaped U.S. immigration policy.  The authors conclude that Angel Island “directly helped to maintain two Americas:  one that allowed immigrants to make better lives for themselves and become Americans, and another that treated immigrants as unwanted foreigners who were to be denied entry and removed.”

Though a 1940 fire destroyed most of the administrative records, the authors combed through government archives, INS records, personal diaries and letters and conducted scores of oral history interviews with those who passed through Angel Island and their descendants, unearthing detailed, often poignant stories.

The Chinese came in the largest numbers, but through the decades they were joined by 85,000 Japanese, 8,000 South Asians, 8,000 Russians and Jews, 1,000 Koreans, and 1,000 Filipinos and others.  There are even records of 400 Mexicans who decided it was safer to come by sea rather than overland during the stormy period of the Mexican Revolution and its aftermath.

Indian revolutionaries

Through their tenacious research, the authors have uncovered some surprising history.  For example, immigrants from South Asia came through Angel Island just as the nascent independence movement against the British in India was gaining strength.  Many became involved in the Gadar (Rebellion) Party, fighting against British imperialism at home, while challenging discriminatory laws in the U.S. Immigration officials collected surveillance on the Indian arrivals and shared it with the British.  When Gadar members returned to India to join the popular revolt after World War I broke out, many were arrested by the British raj.  Singh Sarabha, a Gadar activist who had passed through Angel Island on his way to study at Berkeley, was sentenced to death and executed.

Filipino immigrants faced perhaps most unusual and unjust situation of all. When the Philippines was under U.S. rule, Filipinos were generally admitted to the United States as “U.S. nationals.”  But after the path to Philippine independence was set in 1934, with the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act (which Philippine nationalists termed the Philippine Commonwealth and Independence Law) their status abruptly changed to “aliens.”

The new law offered independence for the Philippines after a ten-year waiting period, but also subjected Filipino immigrants to the quota system for the first time. Reclassified as aliens, Filipinos became subject to the same restrictions as other Asian immigrants – they could not own land or become naturalized citizens.

This was particularly cruel for hundreds of Filipino passengers who arrived in San Francisco just days after the law was passed.  They had left their homeland before the law was signed and therefore had no valid visas.  Lacking proper documentation, they were denied admission.

Repatriation “trick”

The following year, Congress passed the Repatriation Act, which Angel Island Commissioner Edward Cahill called a “Big Brotherly gesture of help and assistance to the Filipinos who have come the US and now find themselves in difficulties.”  It offered government assistance for Filipinos to return to their homeland – but it also barred them from ever reentering the United States.

Calling it a “massive deportation campaign in disguise,” the authors cite muckraking journalist Carey McWilliams ‘ description that “repatriation is a “trick and not a very clever trick to get Filipinos out of this country.”  Though officials hoped that half the total Filipino immigrant population would “voluntarily” leave the U.S., in the end only 2,000 Filipinos (out of 108,000) took them up on the offer.

Lee and Yung have amplified the voices of those who carved messages in the walls of the Angel Island detention barracks, whether classical Chinese poems or barely legible words in Korean or Punjabi. In doing so, they have allowed them to tell the stories that were long missing in U.S. immigration history.

 

Elaine Elinson is a member of the CSA Steering Committee and coauthor of the award-winningWherever There’s a Fight:  How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California. An earlier version of this review appeared in theLos Angeles Daily Journal.