Join our list:

Historical Perspectives / Public Talks Archive

March 11, 2020

Hidden San Francisco:
Book Release and Birthday!

Join Shaping San Francisco’s Chris Carlsson on his 63rd birthday as he presents his new book, Hidden San Francisco: A Guide to Lost Landscapes, Unsung Heroes, and Radical Histories. After a quarter century of curating the digital archive at, and conducting bike and walking tours, this book captures the unique and serendipitous connections that course through Shaping San Francisco’s ongoing work.

Video here.

December 11, 2019

Valencia Street as a Lesbian Corridor: Living Memories

Osento Bathhouse. Amelia’s. Artemis Cafe. Old Wives Tales. Modern Times Bookstore. Names and functions of these venues have changed, but they are part of the living memory of Valencia Street. Long before it descended into the white tablecloth, boutique-filled, gentrified peculiarity of today, the Valencia Street corridor was a hotbed of radical feminism and lesbian culture. LisaRuth Elliott moderates a conversation with some of the women who helped create the important sites and undergirded the intellectual and nightlife of the 1970s and 1980s. With Canyon Sam, Molly Martin, Carol Seajay, and Ruth Mahaney.

Video here.

November 13, 2019

Progress to Poverty: Land and Rents

On the 140th anniversary of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, his land tax and radical reform of land use are worth a critical re-examination. Geographer Richard Walker along with Ted Gwartney of the California chapter of Common Ground USA, untangle what George proposed, what happened as a result of his ideas, and what the future holds. In conjunction with the San Francisco Public Library exhibit Who Owns the Earth? Henry George’s Progress & Poverty 140 Years Later

Video here.

November 6, 2019

Alcatraz Occupation: A Beginning

50 years ago this fall, on November 20, a group of people that came to be known as Indians of All Tribes began a 18-month occupation of Alcatraz Island. This act of self-determination emerged from conditions faced on reservations and in urban centers, from the activism of the Third World Strike at San Francisco State, and resulted in major changes taking place across the continent. From a new consciousness of sovereignty to at least ten major policy and law shifts, Mary Jean Robertson, host of the radio show Voices of the Native Nations, and Eloy Martinez and Debbie Santiago discuss the far reaching impact of claiming “the Rock”.

Video here.

October 23, 2019

Shellmounds, Indigenous Culture, and Ecology on the San Francisco Bay

250 years ago, life along the edges of what we now know as San Francisco Bay changed forever when the Portola Expedition came upon this hidden magnificent body of water. The Spaniards couldn’t quite understand it when they saw this marvelous sight for the first time on November 2, 1769, but this confluence of many rivers was a thriving home to thousands of people, not to mention an abundance of species of water, land, and sky. Join us to talk with Gregg Castro, t’rowt’raahl Salinan/rumsien Ohlone about the tens of thousands of years prior to European arrival, what remains from those times, and how we can honor the ways of life that persist despite centuries of colonial misuse of the land and water.

Video here.

October 2, 2019

Storytelling and the Memory Keepers

We bring together story shapers, story sharers, and story collectors for this evening taking a close look at oral histories and memory keeping. Susan Schwartzenberg hosts a discussion series at the Bay Observatory at the Exploratorium intertwining personal stories and scientific study to understand climate change, Brandi Howell and Mary Franklin Harvin of Tales from North Beach are currently producing a podcast series to document the aging, forgotten, and hidden people and places of North Beach, and Joe Lambert has 25 years of story gathering with the StoryCenter. The panel discusses talk spaces, moving beyond the anecdotal in exploring personal memory, and forging a culture that gives space for left out and unheard voices.

Video here.

May 29, 2019

Americans in the Spanish Civil War

International volunteers rushed to Spain in 1936 after General Francisco Franco led a military coup against the Spanish Republic. Adam Hochschild, author of Spain In Our Hearts, brings to life remarkable characters in this bloody and bitter conflict that consumed Spain for 3 years. 80 years ago this spring the conflict ended, leaving the country under three decades of military dictatorship.

Video here.

April 10, 2019

Neighborhood Newspapers of San Francisco

A collaborative effort of the San Francisco Department of Memory, this project digitally preserves and promotes San Francisco community newspapers. Over 1,600 issues generated in eight neighborhoods dating back to the 1960s are now available online. Collection Project Manager LisaRuth Elliott, along with journalist and historian Elizabeth Creely, present highlights.

Video here.

February 6, 2019

Internment and its Aftermath

Chuck Wollenberg presents his new book Rebel Lawyer about Wayne Collins and his defense of Japanese-American rights during and after WWII. Novelist and essayist Karen Tei Yamashita shares her introduction to John Okada’s No-No Boy, the only 1950s novel to reflect on the post-Internment experience among Japanese-American families.

Video here.

January 23, 2019

Before San Francisco:
Spanish and Mexican Peninsula

From the original encounters between local indigenous peoples and the first Spanish arrivals, to the spread of the disruptive Mission cattle-based economy, Mexican independence, and eventual abolition of Indian slavery, the peninsula that became San Francisco had a fascinating and overlooked pre-urban history. Author Adriana Camarena covers the period when Mexico was fragmenting and local Californios existed in a pastoral but brutal local world, depending on coerced Indian labor and a vast cattle plantation economy.

Video here.

November 7, 2018

The War to End All Wars?

If there were a single event of the 20th century that we could magically undo, would it not be the war of 1914-1918? It led to some 20 million military and civilian deaths, the rise of Nazism, the Russian Revolution, and another even more destructive world war. On the centennial of WWI, the “War to End All Wars,” eminent historian Adam Hochschild revisits that pivotal epoch. His 2011 book To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 reminds us of the shock provoked by the mass slaughter of the First World War and stands as a rebuke to the callous acceptance of mass violence and war perpetuated up to the present moment by the U.S. government.

Video here.

October 31, 2018

The Jazz of Modern Basketball:
Racism and Virtuosity at the Roots of the Golden State Warriors

Shaping San Francisco’s Chris Carlsson digs into the long history of basketball as another season begins. The first African-American players entered the NBA in 1950, while black college stars led the USF Dons to consecutive national championships in 1955 and 1956, inventing a new style of aggressive defensive basketball. Today’s outspoken Warriors embody the decades-long Heritage in which earlier basketball stars pioneered today’s wild improvisational style while resisting the Jim Crow U.S. in which it began.

Video here.

October 10

Missing Pieces: Remembering Elements of a Gone City

Geographer Dick Walker looks at the formative politics of the region in his new book, Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area, and takes us through the overheated bubbles and spectacular crashes, inequality, and delusion of the current moment. Arthur O’Donnell has methodically documented parts of the City slated for demolition or redevelopment from 2010–2018 in his Bound to Fall photography series. His drive to capture what has been a part of our streetscape aims to give future generations a window into what San Francisco was willing to lose, and hoping to gain. Come to learn and to share your own missing pieces.

Photo: A lost landmark, Flax Arts & Design Store, represents the latest of many changes to the Valencia/Market Street area. By Arthur O'Donnell

Video here.

September 26, 2018

Model SF: Collectively Shaping the City

Public Knowledge artists-in-residence Bik Van der Pol have pulled a New Deal scale model of the City—based on 1938 aerial photographs—out of storage crates and into the light. Inspired by the Halprins’ 1970s collective creativity and community planning efforts, their project, “Take Part” will explore local histories with City neighborhood residents as library branches display relevant sections of the model beginning in early 2019. Creators of a 2017 cultural map of southeast San Francisco, Kate Connell and Oscar Melara, with cartographer Sofia Valera Airaghi, also ask, “Can we build a collective cultural life together?” Their projects, including Moving Art House, are designed to do just that. Join these artists in a conversation about engaging communities as we look both back and forward.

Co-hosted by Public Knowledge, a partnership of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Public Library

Video here.

May 23, 2018

Archives and Memory: New Ways of Making History

How do we “hold” (record/store) history now compared to the past? How do we “tell” history now, and has the relationship between archival sources and narrative arcs/presentation changed with digitalization? What do we learn from narration-free archival materials (a la Prelinger home movies, foundsf photo pages, etc.)? And popular attitudes towards history: who cares about footnotes? How are archivists beginning to shape new ways of making history public? Film archivist and librarian Rick Prelinger, and city archivist/librarian Susan Goldstein, scholar Howard Besser.

Video here.

May 9, 2018

Platform Cooperatives

More of our lives are being tightly integrated through the commercial social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, private corporations that are monetizing the enormous creative and cooperative activity that takes place there. A movement among tech workers and cooperative activists to create real alternatives through building self-managed platform cooperatives is taking shape. Yes, Virginia, there IS an alternative! The micro-rental economy masquerading as "sharing" is unmasked, and another way forward is explored. Neal Gorenflo of and Melissa Hoover, director of the Democracy at Work Institute, and Dennis Hayes (author and tech writer)

Video here.

April 25, 2018

Universal Basic Income, Is It time?

Touted by the tech industry as a way to preserve livelihoods in a time of automation replacing workers, Universal Basic Income (UBI) is not a new concept. As a poverty alleviation idea, it has resonance in the EPIC program of 1930s California, and similar ideas were floated by leaders of social movements of the 1960s, including MLK, Jr. and the Black Panthers in their Ten Point Program. Through a discussion of UBI we take a look at the nature of work and classifying invisible work as work, and open up a larger conversation around economic and racial inequalities. Proponents see UBI as a way to get at a new social contract in the U.S., one that builds trust and a chance for truth and reconciliation. Christian Nagler discusses his research into UBI, including performative economics, economic futurity and forecasting, and the divergent political ideologies held within the perceived prefigurative communitarian movement. Anne Price discusses how UBI differs from the social welfare system in being steeped in racial justice rather than race, and how her work at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland is addressing economic security. Sandhya Anantharaman of the Universal Income Project, an advocate of Universal Basic Income, talks about the radical impacts it could have on society.

Video here.

January 24, 2018

Dogpatch Then and Now

Few San Francisco neighborhoods have gone through as dramatic a change as Dogpatch. East of Potrero Hill, once an industrial neighborhood making warships, steel, sugar, rope, and more, where flimsy wooden structures teetered on long-gone hills, the area has had an arts renaissance that is now giving way to high-end condos, the encroaching medical/biotech industry, and even more grandiose plans for highrise development. A microcosm of San Francisco’s history from the 1860s to the present. With Glenn Lym, Steven Herraiz (Steven was sick, and we showed excerpts from his Potrero Hill History Night presentation), and Marti McKee

Video here.

December 6, 2017

Popular Front to Cold War

In November 1938, California elected its first-ever liberal Democratic governor Culbert Olson, supported by a state-wide Popular Front coalition of liberals, unionists, communists, and other radicals. But by 1940 the Popular Front forces were already fracturing and from its wreckage emerged key elements of the Cold War. How did Communists help build this social movement, and how did the Communist Party undercut its own principles during WWII? And where did that leave California politics at the end of WWII and the beginning of the long post-war economic boom? With Jonathan Hunt, Chris Carlsson

Video here.

October 25, 2017

100th Anniversary of the
1917 Russian Revolution

Few events in the past century equal the importance of the Russian Revolution. And yet we only know it through the fog of propaganda and fear, and the actual events of 1917 are long forgotten in the mists of time. Find out what actually happened in that fabled year, and how it fit together with the world events of that epoch. Longtime Russian scholar Anthony D’Agostino (SF State) joins Anarchist scholar from socialist Yugoslavia Andrej Grubacic (CIIS) to unpack some of those tangled histories and together we’ll connect it to San Francisco then and now.

Video here.

October 11, 2017

Speeding Through the Unseen, From Coding to Commons

Ellen Ullman writes in her new book Life in Code “The penetration of technology into the interstices of human existence is nearly complete,” and then demystifes how humans turn their intentions and ideas into the computer codes that are the language of computers. Katja Schwaller puts “Twitterlandia” under the microscope of her critical gaze, showing how the reconfiguration of mid-Market embodies a larger capture and repurposing of public space by private interests. And Dennis Hayes, a long-time tech writer and author of an early critique of Silicon Valley, brings his own historical and political chops to bear on our current predicament, both obsessed with and deeply oppressed by the technosphere that speeds up our lives to the breaking point even while it presents itself as the answer to everything.

Video here.

October 4, 2017

Art and Architecture During the Depression

The Maritime Museum at Aquatic Park recently underwent extensive renovation, bringing to public view murals and sculptures from the WPA that have long been hidden and overlooked. Other beautiful artworks grace public buildings throughout the East Bay and San Francisco, including Coit Tower, and on Treasure Island, where Maritime Museum artists went on to create work for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. Join Richard Everett (Maritime Museum), Anne Schnoebelen (Treasure Island Museum), and Harvey Smith (Living New Deal) for a revealing discussion of the art, architecture, and politics that challenged the economic impoverishment of the Depression by inspiring flourishing public art.

Video here.

May 3, 2017

Agents of Change: California Labor History

Fred Glass (From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement), takes a long look at the labor history of California with Chris Carlsson (, who focuses on the ebb and flow of class war in San Francisco.

Video here.

February 22, 2017

Progressive Transgressions

Crossing centuries and social mores, editors Ivy Anderson and Devon Angus (Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute) and author Clare Sears (Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco) take us into 19th Century San Francisco’s underworld of prostitutes, cross dressers, and others who transgressed the strict gender norms of the time. We look at how normative gender and sexuality were policed and created by widespread mid-1800s laws as well as challenged by gender defiers. Our panelists share the fascinating detective work of the archival research process uncovering these complex and often hidden stories of history.

December 7, 2016

Divided We Fall: Immigration and Scapegoating

Moments of hysteria in history have shaped our feelings toward immigration—either on a local or global scale—from anti-Chinese sentiments leading to decades of the Exclusion Act to events like Pearl Harbor and 9/11, to witnessing thousands of unaccompanied children arriving from Central America, we discuss the increase in security and scapegoating within our borders toward immigrant groups who become associated with these events. Lara Kiswani (Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)), Grant Din (Angel Island Immigration Station), and author Bill Ong Hing (USF Law School) who has written extensively on immigration, take us back in time and up to the present to look at detention, deportation, and communities defending against persecution becoming policy.

November 9, 2016

The Housing Crisis and The Growth Consensus: What's Wrong with this Picture?

The housing crisis continues to wreak havoc across the Bay Area. Political leaders and planners all agree—growth is inevitable, and to many, desirable. We bring together three sharp critics of the local political establishment and its loony-tune fantasies of endless growth and trickle-down solutions. The hidden power grab in the consolidation of regional government—and the endless manipulations by the banking sector and local zoning rules—continue to throw thousands into penury and homelessness as the inevitable foundation beneath our much publicized “prosperity.”

With Zelda Bronstein (, Darwin Bond-Graham (East Bay Express), and Jennifer Friedenbach (Coalition on Homelessness)

October 5, 2016

19th Century California Indian Slavery and Genocide

After more than 150 years, finally historians—and perhaps Californians—are facing up to the horrifying truth that the Indians of California were subjected to a vicious and genocidal campaign of extermination from the beginning of U.S. control in 1846 until after the Civil War. New scholarship shows that Indian slavery was the key source of labor that helped create the early "economy" of California and enrich its first settlers. Explore complicated stories of cultural, religious, and political conflict and assimilation, with both syncretic absorption and stubborn refusals, not reducible only to the slave-based rancheria and mission economy.

With Lisbeth Haas (author of Saints and Citizens: Indigenous Histories of Colonial Missions and Mexican California), Elias Castillo (author of A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions), and Valentin Lopez (chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribe). Special guest Rose Aguilar (KALW's "Your Call") moderates.

May 25, 2016

Audible Cities

What can sounds tell us about the geography, people, and politics of a particular place? This panel explores the role sounds play in our everyday lives as well as how they can attune us to below-the-radar experiences and often “off the map” histories of the urban. Discover the intersection between sound and history with Jeremiah Moore and Sound Mappers Bruno Ruviaro and Christina Zanfagna.

April 20, 2016

San Francisco, 1960s & 70s: Cultural Ecology and Experimentation

Held at California Historical Society

The tumultuous decade of 1968–1978 in the San Francisco Bay Area—and the experimentation and cultural shifts throughout the 1960s that led up to that time—shook the City and forever shaped who we would understand ourselves and the world around us to be. On Wednesday, April 20, Shaping San Francisco brings together authors from Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968–1978, their collection of bottom-up histories chronicling an awakening community, and contributors to, their digital archive of San Francisco history, to provide contextual history of the time period in which Lawrence Halprin and Anna Halprin were forging their paths and utopian ideas.

Author and media artist Jesse Drew speaks about the diversity of communal options that sprung up in urban and rural settings then. Nina Serrano, poet and storyteller, recalls participating in happenings with Anna Halprin and the improvisational landscape the Halprins were creating within. Lincoln Cushing, poster archivist, shows how the intersections of various social movements provided the fabric for cultural emergence. Chris Carlsson, author and historian, traces the arc of ecological awareness that moved from the early 20th century patrician conservation movement to the more left-leaning ecology movement that emerged in the wake of labor and anti-war upheavals during the early 1970s. Historian LisaRuth Elliott moderates the discussion.

March 16, 2016

Street Names, Streetcars, and Street Life

A deeply informed, irreverent tour through San Francisco before the automobile took over half the City’s physical terrain. Historic photos illustrate many stories, including how Haight Street was named, the City was dominated by steam-powered rail, and San Franciscans lived before parking was an issue! with Angus Macfarlane, Emiliano Echeverria, and David Gallagher.

March 9, 2016

Rise and Fall of Third Worldism

How the Non-Aligned Movement founded at the 1961 Belgrade Conference in Yugoslavia challenged the post-WWII world system based on the bipolar US-USSR Cold War. Yugoslavia, Indonesia, African decolonization struggles, Indian independence and partition, nationalism, third world socialism, and Third Worldism in the U.S. left with Eddie Yuen, Andrej Grubacic, and Walter Turner.

February 10, 2016

New (Old) Paradigms in Medicine

A discussion of our changing relationship with medical care from medieval times to today. Including long-term care at Laguna Honda, a pop-up clinic based on DIY herbalism, nutrition and self-care for Tenderloin seniors, and a small Mission District clinic serving the undocumented. with Ivy McClelland, author of God’s Hotel Dr. Victoria Sweet, Dr. Rupa Marya, and Marina Lazzara.

January 27, 2016

Easter Rebellion and

Irish San Francisco

Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore perform their James Connolly-Easter Rising Tour 2016 singing Connolly’s songs along with others made famous in Ireland’s fight for independence. Elizabeth Creely adds stories of Irish Republicanism in San Francisco during that crucial period a century ago.

December 9, 2015

United Nations and New Deal

70 years ago the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco, one of the most significant — and forgotten — moments in local history. How did the UN relate to the 1939 Treasure Island world’s fair, and why was its HQ not built in San Francisco or Marin as planned? The UN was the last of President Roosevelt’s attempts to extend his New Deal to the world. Dr. Gray Brechin examines what has happened to the UN in a new century of perpetual war.

October 7, 2015

Archaeology Finds…Daily Family Life in Early SF Settlements

The Presidio - a military outpost, and South of Market - the industrial and maritime center of early San Francisco, represented worlds of single men, soldiers, sailors, and miners, right? Archaeological research into the 19th-century neighborhood, the 18th-century El Presidio de San Francisco, and recent work around the Transbay Terminal area, gives us a picture of family life and maritime wives, where women and children participated in the hard work of everyday life in these settlements. Come hear tales of Mark Twain's friend steamship captain Ned Wakeman and his wife, "the girl from Happy Valley," among other stories of early house histories.

Archaeologist Kari Lentz (William Self Associates), historical archaeologist Stacy Kozakavich, and Heritage Technician Montserrat Osterlye (Presidio Trust) present their findings which uncover the larger picture of the population of the area that was to become San Francisco.

April 8, 2015

The Tenderloin: SF’s Most Fraught Neighborhood

Money! Crime! Vice! Politics! Moral Panic! Gender bending! The history of the Tenderloin, one of the least heralded and worst understood neighborhoods in town, has it all. Peter Field, who gives astounding walking tours there, covers the early days to WWI while Chris Carlsson takes it from the 1910s to the beginning of the 21st century.

February 24, 2015

Promises of Progress: Panama-Pacific International Exposition

On the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), Gray Brechin and Chris Carlsson discuss the relationship of world’s fairs to the idea of progress over time. How did the presentations at PPIE in their early 20th century context boost now long-held assumptions about progress and development through technological innovation and economic growth?

January 21, 2015

Washed Away—Newfound Extreme Weather History

What actually happened to Darling Clementine? Historian Joel Pomerantz explores the California floods of 1862. Learn how this historic storm, which killed thousands and caused a number of San Francisco houses to collapse, can be an example for what a really extreme weather event could be like in our future.

December 3, 2014

Tunneling San Francisco Then and Now: Where's the Public Interest?

A discussion of the west side tunnels and MUNI expansion in the 1910s, simultaneous to the building of the Hetch Hetchy water and power system by Elizabeth Creely and Catherine Powell, with Tim Redmond to compare today’s infrastructure build-out (Central Subway, sewers, and rebuilding Hetch Hetchy aqueduct).

October 9, 2014

Making History by Making Maps

Nicole Gluckstern and Burrito Justice trace the lines of their literary history mapping project (Bikes to Books) and map-making, and are joined by historical geographer Dick Walker co-author of the fantastic project The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenge of a New Era.

Download a pdf of the Atlas of California presentation (20MB).

September 24, 2014

No Future at College?!?

A discussion among adjunct faculty (aka temp teachers), City College of San Francisco advocates and defenders, and Student Debt activists—how to understand the current neoliberal-imposed crisis in higher education, and what is a future worth fighting for?

With Joe Berry of COCAL, Christian Nagler from the recent unionizing success at the San Francisco Art Institute, Wendy Kaufmyn and Lalo Gonzalez from CCSF.

Wed. May 28, 2014

San Francisco's Ghadar Party Heritage

In 1913, students, farmers, and roaming revolutionaries working to free India from British colonial rule formed the Ghadar Party. The party, headquartered in San Francisco, collaborated with a variety of Bay Area-based freethinkers, labor activists, anarchists, and expats of colonized nations.

Wed. April 16, 2014

Upton Sinclair/End Poverty in California

Lauren Coodley’s new biography of Sinclair dubs him a “California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual”. She sheds light on his remarkable life as the writer who exposed the meatpacking industry in The Jungle, the depradations of the oil industry, the wrongful prosecutions of Sacco and Vanzetti as well as the Wobblies, but Coodley reveals a previously under-appreciated side of Sinclair: his feminism. Jay Martin joins the discussion to focus on Sinclair’s momentous 1934 California gubernatorial campaign to “End Poverty in California (EPIC).”

Wed. March 19, 2014

Stop, Thief! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance

In this majestic tour de force, celebrated historian Peter Linebaugh takes aim at the thieves of land, polluters of the seas, ravagers of the forests, despoilers of rivers, and removers of mountaintops. Scarcely a society has existed on the face of the earth that has not had commoning at its heart. "Neither the state nor the market," say the planetary commoners. Linebaugh kindles the embers of memory like few other historians of our time to ignite our future commons. Linebaugh brings to life the vital commonist tradition. He traces the red thread from the great revolt of commoners in 1381 to the enclosures of Ireland, and the American commons, where European immigrants who had been expelled from their commons met the immense commons of the native peoples and the underground African-American urban commons. Co-sponsored by PM Press.

Wed. January 15, 2014

Latinos at the Golden Gate:
Creating Community & Identity in San Francisco

Latin American migrants have been part of San Francisco’s story since its beginning. Charting the development of a hybrid Latino identity forged through struggle--latinidad--from the Gold Rush through the civil rights era, Tomás Summers Sandoval describes the rise of San Francisco’s diverse community of Latin American migrants, giving a panoramic pespective on the transformation of a multinational, multi-generational population that is today a visible, cohesive, and politically active community.

Wed. October 9, 2013

Bay Area Indigenous Pre-History

Imagine a time when the land that we know as the Franciscan Peninsula extended out to the Farallones and mastodons and tigers roamed freely. Imagine small seasonal villages along waterways engaged in trading across the bay, and tule canoes making the journey. Park Historian Breck Parkman will share his extensive research into the prehistory of the Bay Area, and Malcolm Margolin (Heyday Books, The Ohlone Way) joins in with his years of exploring the indigenous history of the region. Mary Jean Robertson of the Ohlone Profiles Project moderates, and Antonio, Ohlone, shares stories and preparations for the weekend's Big Time Gathering.

Wed. September 25, 2013

Radical Archiving and Cataloging as Social History

What role do nontraditional archives play in the preservation and interpretation of peoples' history? This open discussion will explore some of the opportunities and challenges of radical repositories. Some of the issues that will be addressed include:

  • What defines a radical archive?
  • What can be productive relations between community-based or independent archives and more established (and establishment) institutions?
  • What tools and processes are making it easier to document, catalog, and share oppositional cultural objects?
  • What is the role of ordinary people in building useful collections?

Lincoln Cushing is a professional archivist responsible for Docs Populi - Documents for the Public, documenting and disseminating social justice poster art. He is also archiving consultant with the Oakland Museum of California helping to process the All Of Us Or None poster collection. Claude Marks is the Director of The Freedom Archives, a political, cultural oral history project, restoration center, and media production facility in San Francisco. Nathaniel Moore is an archivist at the Freedom Archives. He has a MA in African Studies and a MS in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois.

Wed. September 11, 2013

The Bay Bridge, 1936-2013

Chris Carlsson presents a historic look at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, how it has changed over time, going from two-way traffic on the top deck (3 lanes in each direction) with trains and trucks on the lower deck, to today's new span. The history of automobility surrounding the bridge, and the many other schemes to build more bridges and crisscross San Francisco with high-speed freeways shows the context of the Bridge... The new Bike Pier (not quite halfway-across-the-bay bike lane) gets a close look too.

Wed. April 13, 2013

Chinese Whispers

An evening of stories and discussion about the impact of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (which wasn’t rescinded until 1943!) on the Chinese American community in San Francisco. This infamous legacy was both subtly woven into community cultural life, and overtly demarcated social and geographical boundaries. Chinese Whispers, a research and storytelling project about the Chinese who helped build the American West, will present excerpted stories from the Bay Area which reveal the deep impact of the Exclusion Act on generations of Chinese American families, and a community story contributor will talk about memories of a growing up in a San Francisco Chinatown that was still essentially socially segregated from the rest of the City. This overlooked history is also very relevant to the ongoing immigration debate. With the Chinese Historical Society of America, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, filmmaker Felicia Lowe, and more.

Wed. February 27, 2013

Pier 70, Transforming 19th Century Ironworks to
a 21st Century ... ?

Join Ralph Wilson, Jasper Rubin, and artist Wendy MacNaughton in a wide-ranging critical look at the history and plans for the oldest industrial buildings west of the Mississippi River, the launchpad for much of the U.S.'s imperial fleet in the late 19th and early 20th century. Increasingly derelict over the past few decades, but still home to the last drydock in San Francisco, big plans are afoot. Join critics, analysts, and artists for a closer look.

January 30, 2013

Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth

From editor Sasha Lilley's essay: "By its very nature, capitalism is catastrophic. There should be no doubt that the multiple social, and especially ecological, crises of our time are genuine and cataclysmic. We are suggesting, however, that politics embedded within the logic of catastrophe – that the catastrophe will deliver a new world, or that it will create the conditions under which people automatically take action – do not serve the left and environmental movement. An awareness of the scale or severity of catastrophe does not ineluctably steer one down the path of radical politics, in spite of received wisdom on the left and many great – albeit frequently dashed – expectations. Those who believe that the system will crumble from crises and disasters lose sight of the ways that capitalism uses crises for its own regeneration and expansions. Likewise, a focus on spectacular catastrophes typically overlooks the prosaic catastrophes of everyday life that are the sediment upon which capitalism is constructed." Join Sasha Lilley and Jim Davis to go deeper into Catastrophism! Co-sponsored by PM Press.

December 12, 2012

Old City Hall: Corruption & Racism in 19th Century San Francisco

Glenn Lym presents an architectural and political history of the 27-year project of building the original City Hall, a building that fell down in the 1906 earthquake, revealing deeply inadequate and corrupt building practices. Meanwhile, when contruction began in the 1870s, the white working class was raging against capitalism and the Chinese in equal parts, providing the impetus for the 1882 federal Chinese Exclusion Act. Chris Carlsson will join the conversation to connect the social and physical histories.

July 17, 2012

Bristol Radical History Group “History From Below”

Roger Wilson of the Bristol Radical History group gives a wide-ranging Talk covering 17th and 18th century history around Bristol, England, including a debunking of the common narrative of the anti-slavery movement, putting the working people of England back into the saga. He also gives a fresh look of the mass riots of 1831, and brings the interventions of the Bristol Radical History Group in our era into the unfolding of "history from below." If you want to find out what unites a 17th Century blasphemous preacher and some drunken Can-Can dancers give a listen.

May 30, 2012

FoundSF: Dissent

Trace the vital history of political dissent in San Francisco with Chris Carlsson, using our FoundSF collection to connect past movements with today's, with a focus on the anti-nuclear and anti-war movements of the 1970s and 1980s through the today's Occupy movement. This will be the final Shaping San Francisco Talk at CounterPULSE, ending our 7th season.

May 2, 2012

Mat Callahan presents the "James Connolly--Songs of Freedom" project

Musician and author, Mat Callahan, presents the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project. "Songs of Freedom" is a collection of lyrics edited by Irish revolutionary, James Connolly, and published in New York in 1907. Its rediscovery and revival is a project undertaken by Callahan and a group of Irish, American and Swiss musicians. Tonight's event will include an account of how this project began as well as a performance of some of the songs. Callahan will discuss Connolly's contribution to art and politics with a special emphasis on its relevance to the struggle for freedom today.

April 25, 2012

Radically Gay: Harry Hay, LGBT pioneer

Harry Hay was a co-founder of the Mattachine Society, participant in the San Francisco General Strike of 1934, organizer of the first Radical Faerie Gathering. Harry Hay was at the heart of arts, activism, spirituality and sexual identities in the 20th century. Learn about this amazing man and discuss his legacies today. With Will Roscoe, editor of "Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder--Harry Hay" (Beacon Press: 1996), and Joey Cain, curator of the new exhibit on Harry Hay at the Main SF Public Library, opening April 26.

January 18, 2012

The Vietnam War Continues

Enforcing the Silence, Tony Nguyen’s film about Vietnamese community in the U.S., explores silence and loss in the tragic story of a young community worker who may have been murdered for expressing his political beliefs. Lam Duong founded the Vietnamese Youth Development Center in San Francisco and published a liberal newspaper that reprinted stories from communist Vietnam following the Vietnam War. On July 21, 1981, the 27-year-old was shot dead outside his apartment in broad daylight. Within days of Lam’s murder, news spread that a shadowy, anti-communist group had claimed responsibility, sending a chilling message to Vietnamese refugees everywhere: stay in line with your political views or risk death. Between 1982 and 1990, five more Vietnamese Americans – four of them journalists – were violently killed, many believe for political reasons. Thirty years later, new filmmaker uncovers truths that Vietnamese Americans have never publicly explored. Listen to the discussion following the film.

December 14, 2011

Centennial Anniversary! Women Get the Vote!

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in California, making it the sixth state, or the Sixth Star, to recognize women as political actors. LisaRuth Elliott and Sue Englander tell us about these women, their collective organizing strategies, the nexus between movements, voting, and class issues, the connection to Spiritualism in the United States, and their previous attempt in 1896 to convince voting men to amend the State Constitution.

November 30, 2011

The History of the Future

Megan Prelinger’s book Another Science Fiction takes a whimsical look at how the Space Race was promoted during its heyday 1957-62, offering a pointed look into a twisted type of corporate “utopian” thinking that informed a whole generation. Meanwhile, Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing and Chris Carlsson’s After The Deluge both present alternative utopian futures for San Francisco a century or more in the future. Join the conversation with these three authors as they ponder utopias and dystopias, imagination and revolution, and the power of social movements and propaganda to shape different futures.
(Unfortunately the recording failed between the introduction and near the beginning of the 2nd speaker, Chris Carlsson, so Megan Prelinger's presentation is not in this recording, though she does appear during the Q&A with the audience on several occasions. Our deepest apologies for this technical failure and resultant omission.)

October 12, 2011

Reimagining Market Street

A discussion with Chris Carlsson and Tom Radulovich about the future of Market Street is taking place in many forums in the City, preparing the way for a new boulevard in 2015. The history of Market Street is peppered with architectural and social solutions that have not worked out as planned. We take a look at the long history of Market Street and San Francisco, the various momentous and controversial redesigns that have happened over the decades, question the assumptions about urban design that underly the current municipal discussions, and set the stage for a discussion of what's coming. Thanks to Rick Prelinger, for providing videos of life on Market Street from the early 20th century to more recent decades.

May 11, 2011

A Virtual Civil Liberties Tour of San Francisco

Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi, authors of Wherever There’s a Fight — How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California, (winner of the 2010 Gold Medal in Californiana from the California Book Awards) show historic and contemporary images of places you may have walked by every day, without realizing the civil liberties battles that were fought there. Learn about a bold African-American woman who refused to give up her seat on a streetcar almost a century before Rosa Parks, the Chinese laundry owner who fought discriminatory laws up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the man who defied President Roosevelt’s incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

January 19, 2011

Before (and After) the Car: San Francisco's Transit History

Historian Chris Carlsson presents vivid account of how San Franciscans moved around this peninsula through time: walking through the sand, horse-drawn stagecoaches, Clipper ships and shanghaiing, cable cars, ghosts of train routes and former freeways, plus the role of mass bicycle rides in both the 19th and 20th centuries.

January 12, 2011

Rick Prelinger's Lost Landscapes of Detroit

How can we use history to make a positive intervention in a complex, troubled city that is working hard to build its future? LOST LANDSCAPES OF DETROIT (2010, 70 mins.) presents a diverse and vibrant city from 1917 through 1970 as it grew and changed, showing its residents, their activities and the places they lived and work, many now gone. Avoiding trendy "ruin porn," the show aims to blend nostalgia and provocation. This was first presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) in winter 2010. Like other LOST LANDSCAPES events, much of the source material is silent and the audience is cordially invited to make the soundtrack through questions, comments, identifications, and discussion.

January 13, 2010

Prohibition in San Francisco: Then and Now

With Dick Boyd, author of Broadway, North Beach, The Golden Years: A Saloon Keeper's Tales and former owner of Pierre's, a bar in North Beach from 1960-65; Sean Lavon Nash; and Michael Whitson, a marijuana prohibition expert, compare the alcohol Prohibition of the 1920s-30s to the contemporary prohibition on marijuana.

December 16, 2009

Rick Prelinger's Lost Landscapes of the East Bay

Continuing our annual holiday excursions through lost films of the Bay Area, Rick Prelinger takes us across the water to the East Bay. Rarely seen clips and recently rediscovered home movies make an evening of participatory film and history investigation!

November 11, 2009

Alcatraz: 40th Anniversary of Indigenous Occupation

Mary Jean Robertson, of “Voice of the Native Nations” on KPOO FM radio (3rd, 4th, and 5th Wednesdays from 6-8pm) and Tony Gonzalez, of AIM-West and the International Indian Treaty Council, revisit the historic occupation of Alcatraz, tell stories, and most importantly, connect this important historic event with the decades of organizing and political resistance since that time, which ultimately led to a maelstrom of events including the historical United Nations General Assembly adoption of the “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” on September 13, 2007. The first part of the audio is the soundtrack from the movie “Alcatraz is Not an Island” by Jim Fortier.

September 9, 2009

Final Tap: An Unofficial History of Beer

The rise of microbrewers in American is preceded by a rich social and revolutionary history of beer and brewing, spanning from the Mayans to the Mayflower, from the Founding Fathers through Manifest Destiny, and from Prohibition to the corporatization of beer. Artists John Jota Leaños and Sean Levon Nash give a zany and surprising look at their take on the history of beer!

February 11, 2009

Rick Prelinger's Lost Landscapes III: Film Fragments of San Francisco

Rick Prelinger of the Prelinger Library and Archives returns to present Year 3 of the Lost Landscapes program. This year's potpourri of rarely-seen city scenes and activities includes new material, including family life in the neighborhoods and newly-discovered color footage of the Golden Gate International Exposition. Drawing from silent and early sound films, exuberant early 1960s city views, diverse home movies and industrial films, this program includes rarely-seen views of San Francisco and always invites the audience to help identify mystery scenes.

January 21, 2009

FoundSF: San Francisco History Wiki Workshop

Explore FoundSF, the new living archive of the City’s history with Chris Carlsson and LisaRuth Elliott. Listen to a demonstration of how to use it, and find out about areas needing focus and attention.

November 12, 2008

The Invisible Public Legacy of the Great Depression

Government agencies created to lift the U.S. out of the Depression built important public works that we all use every day without realizing it. Local historian, geographer and author Gray Brechin of California’s Living New Deal Project gives an opinionated and sharp tour through the hidden legacy of the New Deal in San Francisco and California. He looks at buildings, murals, and more, with a clear exposition of the different agencies that organized the work: CCC, WPA, PWA, etc., 75 years after Roosevelt inaugurated the New Deal.

September 17, 2008

SF State Strike 40th Anniversary

The student/faculty strike at San Francisco State in 1968-69 was a seminal event, ushering in Ethnic Studies in higher education, contributing energy and activists to dozens of San Francisco political movements, and much more. Original participants in the strike, Margaret Leahy, Roger Alvarado, and John Levin talk about being involved, and where it has taken them.

December 19, 2007

Rick Prelinger's Lost Landscapes: Film Fragments of San Francisco

Rick Prelinger of the Prelinger Archive and Library returns to reprise his popular show with some new surprises. Drawing from silent and early sound films, exuberant early 1960s City views, diverse home movies, and industrial films, this program includes rarely-seen views of San Francisco with the audience helping to identify mystery scenes.

April 11, 2007

Lowriders: When the Mission was Low and Slow

Back in the late 1970s and early ‘80s Mission Street was home to a wild scene of lowriders every weekend. Bouncing, shimmying, and gleaming cars full of excited kids and long-time Missionistas would fill the boulevard for miles and hours. A unique public space erupted every week for several years in the face of police harassment, created and maintained by the ever resourceful youth of Latino San Francisco. Original participants, filmmakers, and today’s young activists introduce rarely seen footage, and the trailer for a new documentary, Why We Ride: From Low to Show. Hear also about the changing nature of youth culture, street life, public space, and life in San Francisco’s Mission District.A special screening and talk by members of the Mission Archives to benefitMission Archives/Conscious Youth Media Crew, providing facilities and video training for local youth.

February 14, 2007

A History of Land Grabs in San Francisco and Some Counter-efforts (2 podcasts)

San Francisco’s entire history is based on land grabs, within its own borders and far beyond. Sketching this history to the present, Chris Carlsson, Erick Lyle, and James Tracy also look at counter-efforts to grab land and to create open and cooperative spaces in an ever more commercially tyrannized society.

Part 1 features Chris Carlsson and James Tracy. Part 2 features Erick Lyle talking about the 949 Market Street squat, the 3rd Street corridor, mid-Market redevelopment and Chris Carlsson who tells about the recent history of art spaces, evictions, institutionalization, and more.

December 6, 2006

Rick Prelinger's Lost Landscapes: Film Fragments of San Francisco

Drawing from silent and early sound films, exuberant early-1960s City views, diverse home movies and industrial films, this program includes rarely-seen views of San Francisco. Film is rich and often vivid evidence backing up imperfect memories and infusing institutional histories with traces of everyday life. Rick Prelinger began collecting film in 1982, and is co-founder of the Prelinger Library, an appropriation-friendly research library open to the public in South of Market. Co-hosted by Film Arts Foundation.

November 8, 2006

Sexual and Reproductive Freedom Since the 1960s

As we face another assault on abortion rights Elizabeth Creely of BACORR and Ruth Mahaney take a look at the historical context, first of the emergence of those rights in the women’s liberation politics of the 1960s and '70s, and how that politics has evolved and mutated in the decades since. They respond to the questions: What is the relationship between activist politics and changes in the law? How do street-level politics lead to newly assertive behaviors behind closed doors and how does that in turn loop back into the public realm?

June 14, 2006

Films by Calvin Roberts: A San Franciscan’s Lost History

Calvin Roberts has been shooting San Francisco’s history from the streets and making films since the late 1960s. He narrates some of his rarely seen footage about early Black Panthers, politics in the Mission District, wars in Southeast Asia, and many more surprises. Calvin was there, and he brings us along on this special retrospective night.

April 12, 2006

Black Exodus and Black Eviction in San Francisco (4 podcasts)

The Black population of San Francisco has been falling steadily since 1970. Is today’s Bayview-Hunters’ Point neighborhood facing another round of racist relocation? Community activists and historians discuss the infamous redevelopment process of the 1960s that did much to diminish a vibrant African-American community in the old Fillmore. With Kevin Epps, from Straight Outta Hunters’ Point; Alicia Schwartz, of POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights); Willie Ratcliff, publisher of San Francisco Bay View newspaper; and Espanola Jackson of Bayview-Hunters Point.

All four podcasts run consecutively on this playbar, or you can skip forward or backward among the episodes with the arrows

February 8, 2006

Philippines & San Francisco: Connected Through History (2 podcasts)

From the barely remembered American-Philippine War of 1899-1904 that killed a half million Filipinos, to the immigration of Filipino men in the 1910s and 1920s to work in the Central Valley, and including the rise and ultimate demise of Manilatown and the struggle to save the I-Hotel, San Francisco has been a vital crossroads for Filipinos, and in turn they have left important marks on the City. A discussion including Abraham Ignacio, the author of The Forbidden Book; Filipino-American scholars and activists Oscar Peneranda and MC Canlas; and Estella Habal author of San Francisco's International Hotel. This Public Talk includes an excerpt from Chonk Moonhunter’s The Fall of the I-Hotel.

Part 1 features Abraham Ignacio and Oscar Peneranda. Part 2 features MC Canlas and Estella Habal continuing the discussion of the Philippines-US war and then the long wave of Filipino immigration to San Francisco.

January 18, 2006

Labor strength: Historic Bay Area General Strikes

San Francisco’s class relations were never the same after the widespread success of the General Strike of 1934. Another momentous general strike erupted in Oakland in 1946. Both strikes are described and analyzed by Gifford Hartman and Chris Carlsson.