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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Night of Tar, Feathers, and Terror: Anti-labor Vigilantism in Sonoma

Each July since 1994, San Francisco has played host to LaborFest, an event established to institutionalize the history and culture of working people in an annual labor cultural, film, and arts festival. As part of this year’s LaborFest, CHS hosted an evening gallery talk entitled A Night of Tar, Feathers, and Terror: Anti-labor Vigilantism in Sonoma.

In the evening of August 21, 1935 a band of vigilantes abducted Sol Nitzberg—a Jewish Sonoma County chicken farmer—along with three other labor organizers. Nitzberg and Silva Green (another organizer) were tarred and feathered and forced by the mob to parade through Santa Rosa. For our event, Barry Nitzberg—grandson of Sol Nitzberg— and historian Ken Kann were present at the CHS galleries to unpack the history of labor organizing in and vigilante terror in Sonoma County, including the 1935 Sebastopol Apple Pickers Strike, the assault on Nitzberg and Green, and the role of ACLU in the subsequent trial.

CHS member Oliver Pollak wrote the following response and event recap in the evening in the San Diego Jewish World:

"Imagine, 1974 was 39 years after the event, and 2018 was 44 years after the book. Who would still be interested 83 years after the event? Well, an over-flow crowd of one hundred fifty people attended, some were sitting on the staircase. These children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends of Zionists, Communists, Socialists, the old left, anarchists and some red diaper babies listened intently and then asked questions, some of which recalled the tension between the Rechters (right wing) and Linkers (left wing), echoes of the McCarthy anti-communist inquisition, Israel socialism and Zionism in Israel."

Read more here.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Designing for our audiences in Teaching California

The California Historical Society (CHS) and its partners at The California History and Social Science Project (CHSSP) have the unique opportunity, thanks to a substantial grant from the state’s Department of Education, to develop Teaching California, a free K-12 online curriculum that puts California’s archives at the center of student investigation into the past. Crucial to this initiative will be taking a co-designing approach with the audiences we want to engage, so that what is created is as discoverable and widely-used by those audiences as possible.

Brainstorming Teaching California audiences in an internal session at CHS in early April. Questions explored included: Who are the people or groups reached directly by Teaching California? Which are more peripherally relevant but still stand to benefit from what we create?

When embarking on a user-centered design approach, the first step is to identify and gain empathy for your users. For our project team, this meant making our implicit primary audiences explicit and discussing the range of periphery audiences who stand to benefit from what we create.

On April 25th, CHS and CHSSP teammates met for a session to do just that and to determine what success for those audiences might look like as we plan for website development. CHSSP, based out of the University of California at Davis, are teacher professional development experts and the primary authors of the state’s recently adopted History and Social Science Framework, which provides the foundation for our content work on Teaching California.

The CHS and CHSSP teams reviewing Teaching California primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences and what signifies success for those audiences at an all-hands-on-deck session on April 25th, 2018.

While teachers unsurprisingly emerged as a core primary audience, the California County Offices of Education also emerged as primary audiences for what will be a crucial role in project dissemination to local teachers. And we could not forget that Teaching California will be important to the growth and development of both the CHSSP and CHS organizations, who will also serve as important primary audiences. This was a fun and productive session and our group cycled through many self-adhesive flipcharts!

Following this session, we worked with CHSSP to develop basic user profiles for the primary audiences we identified. User profiles acts as a cursory audience examination, allowing a project team to think more holistically about a project and to start to tie ‘why’ a project is being developed together with ‘whom’ it is being developed for. While we will have the opportunity to continue a more in-depth audience analysis in the coming months, this exercise allowed us to scope out the basic needs and motivations of those we will be designing for.

An excerpt of the questions we explored to form our user profiles.

As we aim for statewide reach for Teaching California, which we hope will help spur Framework adoption across all corners of the state, identifying our audiences has helped our CHS website design team address some important challenges including: How can we create an online resource for the diverse California school communities teachers serve, and how can we co-design with them throughout the project to continue addressing needs? 

We are looking forward to continuing to develop out our process for co-designing for our audiences, so follow along with our progress here!

The California Historical Society is working in partnership with the California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) at UC Davis to establish and implement Teaching California: a free and expansive online set of instructional materials to support the State’s new K-12 History-Social Science Framework. Comprised of curated primary source material from California's premier archives, libraries, and museums. Teaching California presents a research-based approach to improving student reading, writing, and critical thinking.  This post comes from Kerri Young, Teaching California Project Manager. You can reach out to her at