Author to bring California civil rights history to CSUB

The Walter Stiern Library at California State University, Bakersfield, is kicking off a new speaker series, “Walter Presents,” with an exhibit and author visit focused on the history of civil rights in California. 

“Wherever There’sa Fight” is an eight-panel exhibit on display through Feb. 10 featuring the fight for civil liberties in California spanning from the Gold Rush to the post-9/11 era. The exhibit is based on a book by the same name by authors Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi, both former staffers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. The book tells the stories of individuals – many of whom may not appear in California history lessons – who stood up for their rights in fights against discrimination, segregation, and other injustices.

Co-author Elinson will give a talk and sign copies of the book at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, in the Dezember Reading Room of the Walter Stiern Library. The event is free and open to the public. A limited number of reserved parking spaces will be available for free in Lot D behind the library; otherwise visitors may purchase a $5 parking pass.

“Libraries have always been at the forefront in the fight for civil liberties so it’s very appropriate that we launch our new lecture series with an exhibit about civil liberties and a talk by a speaker as distinguished as Elaine Elinson,” said Curt Asher, Interim Dean of the Walter Stiern Library.

Elinson is an author, journalist, and media consultant with legal and social justice organizations. She served as the communications director of the ACLU of Northern California and editor of the ACLU News for more than 20 years. She was named a Library Laureate by the San Francisco Public Library in April 2010. “Wherever There’s a Fight,” published by Heyday Books in 2009, was awarded a Gold Medal in the 2010 California Book Awards.

One example she cites in which Kern County played a key battlefield in a fight for freedom of speech was when the Board of Supervisors banned “The Grapes of Wrath” from schools and libraries after the book was published in 1939 – prompting Bakersfield’s chief librarian Gretchen Knief to fight back.

“I want to share with the students and Bakersfield community the stories of some unsung heroes who have fought for all of our rights,” Elinson said. “People we may not have heard of, but who stood up against injustice and inequality. I hope that their stories will inspire others to be vigilant about our civil rights and civil liberties, and to know that each of us has a role to play in protecting them.”

“Wherever There’s a Fight” is presented by the Walter Stiern Library, and sponsored by the CSUB Associated Students Incorporated and the CSUB Public History Institute. Copies of the book will be available for sale during the Jan. 25 event. Library hours for public viewing of the exhibit are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. The library is closed on Saturdays. For more information, contact the Walter Stiern Library at 661-654-3042.

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