Bids for Freedom

This lesson will help middle school students understand how the judicial system was fractured over the question of slavery in the decade before the Civil War. Students will compare and contrast the petitions for freedom of Bridget "Biddy" Mason and Archy Lee, slaves who were held in California, and Dred Scott, whose well-known lawsuit for freedom resulted in an infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision. Students will understand attempts by African Americans to realize the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and how those attempts connected to the compromises regarding slavery in the 19th century.

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New America Now

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November 6, 2009

Listen to a conversation between Stan Yogi and Sandip Roy, host of New America Now: Dispatches from the New Majority, which was broadcast on KALW.


Sylvia Mendez Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

February 16, 2011

On February 15, President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, to Fullerton resident Sylvia Mendez.

Mendez has spoken across the country about Mendez v. Westminster, the successful federal class action lawsuit her parents, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez (pictured above) and others filed in 1945 on behalf of five thousand Mexican American students attending schools in four Orange County communities.

At various points in history, California law mandated the segregation of African American, Native American, and Asian American students. But the legislature never singled out Mexican Americans for legalized segregation. It was common practice, however, for districts with large Mexican American populations to segregate Mexican Americans into inferior schools.

In April 1947, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court decision forbidding the Orange County school districts defendants in Mendez v. Westminster to continue segregating Mexican American students.

The case served as a precedent for federal courts in Texas and Arizona to rule segregation of Mexican American students unconstitutional. It also contributed to the passage of a bill signed by California Governor Earl Warren repealing all school laws requiring segregation.

The Mendez case was also an important trial run for legal strategies and arguments successfully employed in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, ruled in 1954 that "separate but equal" schools were unconstitutional.

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Civil rights advocate whose parents (pictured here) successfully challenged segregation of Mexican Americans in Orange County schools receives nation's highest honor

Racist Incidents Spur Discussion and Protests at UC Campuses

March 3, 2010

A string of incidents at Univeristy of California campuses in recent weeks has generated protests and discussion throughout the university system about racism and intolerance. The highly-publicized incident that sparked the protests was a mid-February party held by UC San Diego fraternities mocking Black History month. Party organizers dubbed the event the "Compton Cookout" and sent invitations via Facebook encourageing men to wear oversized clothes, chains, and show tatoos. Women were instructed to speak very loudly while rolling their necks and waving their fingers.  A few days later, a campus television show aired a segment of the party and used a racial epithet to criticize Black students. On March 1, Governor Schwarzenneger condemned "intolerable acts of racism and incivility" on UC campuses. That same night, a Ku Klux Klan-like hood was discovered hanging from a statue outside the UC San Diego library. Police are investigating the matter.

The population of African American and Latino students at UC schools has historically been low. Black students currently make up only 3.8 percent of undergraduates in the UC system, while Latinos comprise 20.4 percent, whites are 30.5 percent, and Asians 39.8 percent of undergraduates. At UC San Diego, where the most explosive racial incidents have recently occured, African Americans students are less than 2 percent of undergraduates.

The effort to diversity the student population at UC campuses was set back after voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996. That initiative banned affirmative action in all state programs.


Governor condemns racism and incivility on UC campuses. Police investigate latest incident: discovery of a KKK-like hood at UC San Diego.

Wherever There's a Fight on New America Now Radio Program

November 12, 2009

Wherever There's a Fight co-author, Stan Yogi, spoke with Sandip Roy, host of New America Now: Dispatches from the New Majority.  The interview was broadcast on San Francisco's KALW radio on Friday, November 6, and again on Sunday, November 8.  Listen to the interview by clicking on the button below.

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Listen to Wherever There's a Fight co-author Stan Yogi being interviewed by Sandip Roy of KALW's New America Now.

Affirmative Action

This lesson provides a focused look at Affirmative Action through a close examination of the 1978 Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke and the 1996 California ballot initiative Proposition 209. Students will examine the goal of diversity as a "compelling state interest" and the claim of past discrimination to evaluate affirmative action strategies as a tool in the continued struggle for civil rights. 

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Attempt to Strip Japanese Americans of Voting Rights

As the U.S. government was forcing Japanese Americans to leave their west coast homes to be incarcerated in concentration camps, the Native Sons of the Golden West brought a lawsuit to deny American citizens of Japanese descent their right to vote.


ACLU Sues State Over Public School Fees

September 12, 2010

The California affiliates of the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the State of California and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for allowing school districts throughout the state to charge fees for books and other essential educational materials.

Since 1879, the California Constitution has guaranteed the state's children a free education.

The lawsuit resulted from an investigation by the ACLU of Southern California, which uncovered a widespread practice among school districts of compelling students to purchase textbooks, workbooks, and assigned novels. Districts also charged students to take Advanced Placement examinations, even though completing these tests is a course requirement and affects students’ grades.

The suit contends that charging fees discriminates against children in lower-income families, resulting in an unfair system in which only the wealthy will be able to afford an education.

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In 2004, the Schwarzenegger administration settled a similar lawsuit, Williams v. California, which charged that the state had failed to fulfill its constitutional mandate to guaranteee the bare minimum infrastructure--up to date textbooks, safe buildings, qualified teachers--for a quality public education.

The settlement provided up to a billion dollars for school districts to purchase educational materials, to identify and fix deteriorating schools, and to ensure that all schools hired qualified teachers. The state also agreed to standards for teachers, access to textbooks, sanitary and safe campuses, and a parent-supported system to hold school districts accountable to those standards.

Schools throughout California allegedly charge for textbooks, workbooks, and art music, and other courses.

Majority of Californians View State's Diversity as Asset and Challenge

January 28, 2010

The findings of a new field poll show that 58 percent of California voters consider the diversity of the state's population both an advantage but also a source of problems. More respondents (24%) said they considered California's diversity only an asset, while fewer (14%) believe it is only a challenge.

Since statehood, California has been a place of incredible diversity, as people, albeit mostly men, from all over the globe came to the state because of the gold rush. In recent years, the state's diversity has been the focus of initiative battles that have targeted the civil liberties of minority groups. In 1994, voters approved Proposition 187 which was meant to deny state services to undocumented immigrants. The law never went into effect because Governer Gray Davis did not pursue the state's defense of the propostion after state and federal judges barred implementation of the law. In 1996, Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in state programs, passed by 54%. And in 2008, voters altered the state constitution to deny gay men and lesbians the right to marry.

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Field Poll director calls findings hopeful as California voters are more positive than negative about the state's diverse demographics.

College Ethnic Studies Course

View a syllabus for a College of San Mateo Ethnic Studies course that incorporated Wherever There's a Fight.

View a syllabus for a College of San Mateo Ethnic Studies course that incorporated Wherever There's a Fight.

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