Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

History of California Humanities – 2005-2014 – The Power of Stories

What were you doing in 1975…1985…1995?

Since California Humanities first opened its doors in 1975,  we have sought to encourage people to:

  • learn more about the complex history of our state and all its peoples
  • to gain greater understanding of our individual and collective experiences
  • to think  about the values, dreams, and aspirations we share so that we can work to create the California we want to see in the future.

This has been and remains at the forefront of our vision of what the humanities should be and can do – connect us all through the human experience.

When we celebrated our 40th anniversary in 2015, we decided it was a good time to take stock of what California Humanities and our partners have accomplished over the past four decades. Organized chronologically by 10-year intervals pegged to milestone events in the wider world, this timeline is supplemented by short stories and illustrative materials related to key programs, projects, and people who have made outstanding contributions to  our mission. As you will see, our history reflects our deep commitment to the core values of the humanities while striving for innovation, relevance, and responsiveness to an ever-changing world.

Over time, we will be adding more material and new information to this site. If you are a past grantee, project partner, or program participant, consider sharing your experiences with us here – we’d love to hear from you. We hope you will enjoy this brief excursion through our past and that you’ll join us as we write the next chapter of California Humanities’ story.

Julie Fry
President & CEO

Credits: This timeline was developed by California Humanities staff with support from two University of California Public Fellows, Sarah Papazoglakis (UC Santa Cruz, Literature) and Cherish Asha Bolton (UC Irvine, History.) We appreciate the contributions made by other staff members, former and current, and the generosity of all those who shared their stories and impressions with us.

Widespread community and academic interest in enlarging the California “story” to incorporate the experiences of those whose voices and viewpoints had been marginalized or obscured led us to continue our focus on narrative.

New funding streams enabled the expansion of the California Documentary Project, the California Story Fund (renamed Community Stories), and supported special projects designed to engage young people: Youth Digital Filmmakers and How I See It: My Place.  Recognition of the crucial role the humanities can play in bridging social, cultural, and economic differences, and in providing people with tools to support civic participation through dialogue and discussion of ideas and issues, led to the development of a dialogue-based program for libraries, Now We’re TalkingSearching for Democracy, our third multiplatform initiative, supported discussions, forums, film screenings, and story-sharing projects across the state in the lead-up to the 2012 national election cycle. In 2014, in recognition of the need to help support the reintegration of veterans of recent, as well as past conflicts into California communities, we launched War Comes Home. The project reached millions of Californians throughout the state through a statewide read and related library-based programs, a traveling exhibit of letters written by veterans, and a wide range of locally-initiated story-sharing projects that incorporated oral history, storytelling, performance, and digital media that illuminated the many dimensions of the veteran experience. Over the course of the decade, we and our partners garnered an impressive list of awards and recognition.



From Barrios to Big League

From Barrios to Big League

Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues, a project of the Baseball Reliquary, a small community-based archive and collection dedicated to preserving and sharing..Read More


Hollywood Chinese

Hollywood Chinese

Nearly a decade before #OscarSoWhite made racism in Hollywood a national topic, award–winning filmmaker and historian Arthur Dong explored how Chinese and Chinese Americans had been represented on screen. Additionally,..Read More


Searching for Democracy

Searching for Democracy

In the lead up to the 2012 election season, California Humanities embarked on a two-year initiative called Searching for Democracy, aiming to engage Californians in a statewide conversation about the..Read More


War Ink

War Ink

War Ink is an online interpretive exhibit of stories and images shared by 24 California veterans through photos, text, and audio and video recordings. Initiated by the Contra Costa Public..Read More

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