How Surf City USA Became the “Anti-California”

Riding a Wave of Litigation and Conspiracy-Mongering, Huntington Beach Defies the Golden State's Laws—and Its Diverse Reality

Who says you can’t build anything in California? Huntington Beach is busy constructing a wall of denial around whatever is left of its soul.

The Orange County city has long been associated with the open and outlaw side of California. Named for a railroad robber baron (Henry Huntington), the city grew through oil speculation, aerospace, rapid post-war housing development, and a free-spirited surfing culture inspired by its beautiful beaches.

But in this century, Huntington Beach has achieved a different sort of prominence: As the anti-California, its independent vibe having curdled into …

The Greek-American R&B Legend Who Passed as Black

Johnny Otis Felt He Had Been ‘Saved’ by the Political, Spiritual, and Moral Force of African-American Culture 

If a role exists in black music that Johnny Otis couldn’t play, it would be hard to find. Known as the godfather of rhythm and blues, Otis was a bandleader, …

The Voodoo Priestess Whose Celebrity Foretold America’s Future

Marie Laveau, the Self-Invented New Orleans Prophetess, Blurred the Sacred and Profane While Presiding Over a Multiracial Following 

Any tourist who rolls into New Orleans’s French Quarter eventually finds themselves standing before a Bourbon Street botanica called Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. It’s a small shop, and …

The Black Women Soldiers Who Demanded Opportunities

During World War II, Four African Americans at Fort Devens, Massachusetts Went on Strike to Do Skilled Jobs Instead of ‘Maid Work’

In late 1944, four African-American women—Mary Green, Anna Morrison, Johnnie Murphy and Alice Young—enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps, or WAC, the newly established military branch for women. All …

How African American Spirituals Moved From Cotton Fields to Concert Halls

After the Civil War, Touring Groups of Black College Singers Popularized Slavery-Era Songs, Giving Rise to a New Musical Genre

“Swing low, sweet chariot….” These words are familiar to many Americans, who might sing them in worship, in Sunday school, around campfires, in school, and in community choruses. But …