Why California’s Greatest Historian Couldn’t Get Elected in San Francisco

Kevin Starr's Failed Candidacy Exposed the Fault Lines in a Shifting City

Kevin Starr is widely regarded as California’s pre-eminent historian—a prolific author and public intellectual for nearly 50 years—and his death earlier this year generated much writing about his life and scholarship. But one episode in his life was not widely known or much remembered: his race for San Francisco Supervisor in 1984.

I was a volunteer in that campaign, and got to see firsthand how the campaign, and its aftermath, would influence Starr’s career—and by extension Californians’ understanding of themselves.

Starr came to the 1984 race with a decade-long involvement in …

How William T. Sherman Helped Create California

And How His Golden State Past Influenced the Civil War General’s Most Famous Decision

This month, as California celebrates Admission Day—a legal holiday in honor of our officially joining the United States on September 9, 1850—we should give ourselves an overdue present:

A founding story …

My California

In Novelist Edan Lepucki’s Home State, the History Is Fictional, the Terrain Is Otherworldly, and the Population Is United by Difference

In the story about myself, I was born in Santa Monica, in a rental on Sunset Ave. (yes, Avenue, not Boulevard). Early February, which is a bleak month elsewhere, but …

Schools Aren’t Giving California Kids Enough Screen Time

Movies Like Citizen Kane, Vertigo, and The Joy Luck Club Will Teach Students More About Modern State History Than Textbooks Ever Could

California teachers, you should be showing your students more movies.

And not for babysitting purposes, or to fill holes in your lesson plan. As our state considers new frameworks for the …

On Route 66, a Gas Station Is History Worth Saving

In Rancho Cucamonga, We’re Turning a Long Abandoned Roadside Landmark Into a Museum

In 1964, my parents packed up our old Ford and took my brother and me on a cross-country trip from San Diego to Washington, D.C. and back. Part of our …

California Is No Longer a Destination

A State Once Famous for Offering Escape and Lucky Breaks Is Now Just a Place Where People Aspire to Stick Around and Settle In

Today’s California dream is not your grandfather’s California dream.

So why do we keep telling ourselves that we’re still seeking the same California dream? “California dream” has become a verbal …