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Civil liberties are dynamic. Clashes over conflicting perspectives on freedom, equality, and justice occur regularly in the Golden state. Visit this page for news on civil liberties developments throughout California and how they relate to our past.

Tenth Anniversary Edition of "Wherever There's a Fight" to be Released

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September 24, 2019
from Heyday

Heyday is proud to announce the publication of the Tenth Anniversary edition of Wherever There’s A Fight:  How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

According to Heyday publisher Steve Wasserman, "Ten years ago, Heyday published Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi's stirring compendium of California heroes, both sung and unsung, who down the decades demonstrated exemplary courage fighting the good fight to ensure civil liberties for all Californians and in so doing helped put the golden state at the forefront of a better, more just America. The stories they tell so well are needed now more than ever and this tenth anniversary edition is designed to reach readers everywhere, young and old alike, to inspire and provide hope for new generations of citizens who continue to fulfill the promise of the California--nay, American, dream."

Gov. Newsom Issues Executive Order Apologzing to California Indians

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June 19, 2019
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In West Sacramento, at the site of the future California Indian Heritage Center, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an historic formal apology to the state's native people and their descendents. 

He acknowledged that California's early political leaders expended more than $1 million to pay militas to hunt and kill Indians, and that the state's first governor announced that a "war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct."

California Indians were also subject to an 1850 law, titled "An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians," that allowed a judge to declare an unemployed Indian a vagrant who could be sold to the highest bidder as an indentured servant. 

The law also allowed an Indian child to be indentured to a white family until the child reached maturity. Many Indian children were kidnapped and sold as a result.

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California Supreme Court Posthumously Grants Law License to Chinese Immigrant

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March 18, 2015
Courtesy Wikimedia

On March 16, 2015, a unanimous California Supreme Court posthumously granted a law licencse to Hong Yen Chang, a Chinese immigrant who unsuccessfully petitioned the state high court in 1890 for a licence to practice law.

The court in 1890 cited the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred virtually all immigration from China and denied Chinese immigrants naturalization rights, as well as anti-Chinese laws memorialized into the California constituion of 1879 as the basis for its denial.

Chang arrived in the United States in 1872 when he was 13 to study.  He eventually attended Yale and earned a degree from Columbia Law School in 1886. He sat for the New York bar exam by special act of the legislature. When he was admitted to the New York state bar, the New York Times reported that Chang was the first Chinese immigrant admitted to any bar in the United States.

In 1890, he moved to California to work in San Francisco's Chinese community as an attorney. At the time, discrimination against Chinese immigrants was rampant.  In 1879, California voters ratified a new state constitution that denied Chinese the right to vote, prohibited the employment of Chinese by corporations or on public works except in punishment for a crime, and authorized cities to require Chinese to live outside city limits or only in segregated neighborhoods.

Through a series of federal court cases, Chinese plaintiffs were able to invalidate most of the anti-Chinese provisions. But it took almost a century for the last of the 1879 anti-Chinese constitutional provisions to be removed from the books by a statewide ballot initiative.

In 2014, members of the UC Davis Law School's Asian Pacific American Law Students Association asked the Califonria Supreme Court to award Chang his law license, pointing out that the laws that prevented him from practicing as an attorney have been discredited and repealed and asking the court to right the historic wrong against Chang.

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