Wherever There’s A Fight

By Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi

Wherever There’s A Fight

How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

By Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi

Winner of the California Book Award


More than ten years after the initial publication of the first-ever account of the struggle to develop and protect social justice in a bellwether state, the award-winning Wherever There’s a Fight is as relevant as ever for “navigating the slogan-riddled civil rights issues of the day” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). ACLU veterans Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi tell the sweeping story of how freedom and equality have grown in California, from the gold rush right up to the precarious post-9/11 era, despite waves of fear, bigotry, exploitation, and ignorance. The swiftly paced yet detailed narrative covers many disparate struggles for equity, but from each case a pattern emerges: whether fighting for workers’ free speech rights, protesting the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage, asserting the right of people with disabilities, or challenging race- and ethnicity-based legislation, it is Californians themselves who transform lofty ideals into practical realities through activism and legal action. Wherever There’s a Fight paints vivid portraits of these change makers, from well-known figures like Fred Korematsu and Dolores Huerta to people who in this book finally receive the attention they deserve; and it shows how these pushes for progress have reverberated far beyond the Golden State.

Elaine Elinson

Elaine Elinson

Elaine Elinson was the communications director of the ACLU of Northern California and editor of the ACLU News for more than two decades. She is a coauthor of Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines, which was banned by the Marcos regime. Her articles have been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, Poets and Writers, and numerous other periodicals. She is married to journalist Rene CiriaCruz and they have one son.

Stan Yogi

Stan Yogi

Stan Yogi is the coauthor, with Laura Atkins, of the children’s book Fred Korematsu Speaks Up. He managed development programs for the ACLU of Northern California for fourteen years and is the coeditor of two books, Highway 99: A Literary Journey through California’s Great Central Valley and Asian American Literature: An Annotated Bibliography. His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, MELUS, Los Angeles Review of Books, and several anthologies. He is married to nonprofit administrator David Carroll and lives in Los Angeles.


Coming soon…

Curriculum & Resources for Teachers

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Middle School Lesson Plans

These 8th grade U.S. History lesson plans meet History-Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools:

  • Bids for Freedom

    This lesson will help middle school students understand how the judicial system was fractured over the question of slavery in the decade before the Civil War. Students will compare and contrast the petitions for freedom of Bridget “Biddy” Mason and Archy Lee, slaves who were held in California, and Dred Scott, whose well-known lawsuit for freedom resulted in an infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision. Students will understand attempts by African Americans to realize the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and how those attempts connected to the compromises regarding slavery in the 19th century. Read more…

  • Equal Protection and the Yick Wo v. Hopkins Case

    Through a careful reading of historical sources and through interpretation of context clues related to the landmark Yick Wo v. Hopkins lawsuit, students will understand that city and federal laws did not uniformly support or deny Chinese laborers’ rights to equal protection under the law in the 19th century. Students will learn that a law may seem impartial in its language, but if it is enforced in a discriminatory manner, that is a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. This lesson can be implemented in units on Immigration or Reconstruction. Read more…

High School Lesson Plans

These lesson plans that meet California State History-Social Science Content Standards for 11th grade U.S. History and Geography courses and 12th grade Principles of American Democracy and Economics classes.

  • Affirmative Action

    This lesson provides a focused look at Affirmative Action through a close examination of the 1978 Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke and the 1996 California ballot initiative Proposition 209. Students will examine the goal of diversity as a “compelling state interest” and the claim of past discrimination to evaluate affirmative action strategies as a tool in the continued struggle for civil rights. Read more…

  • Ballot Propositions and Civil Rights

    This lesson examines the history of ballot propositions in the struggle for equal rights in California. Students examine the tension between “the voice of the majority” and the defense of minority rights and the role played by the judiciary in protecting the Constitutional rights of minority communities from injustices imposed by majority rule through the ballot initiative process. Read more…

  • The Right to Religious Freedom

    This lesson is meant to accompany or follow a larger discussion of the Bill of Rights. Students will learn why minority religious communities are vulnerable to violations of their religious liberty, how times of social stress or war create a set of conditions that threaten civil liberties, how the judicial branch can function to protect minority populations against popular prejudice as expressed through local officials, how judges sometimes have to weigh Constitutional protections against competing claims, and how the appeals process can function to maximize plaintiffs’ opportunities to protect their rights and set a wider precedent to protect others in similar circumstances. Read more…

  • The Fight for Racial Equality in Education

    This lesson broadens the study of the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the schools beyond Brown v. Board of Education through an examination of the judiciary’s role in safeguarding the rights of communities of color to a quality public education. Students will understand how the battle by different ethnic and racial communities to end school segregation in California in the late19th and first part of the 20th centuries predated more well known efforts by African Americans in Southern states, how the Mexican-American community in southern California through Mendez v. Westminster in the 1940s used groundbreaking legal strategies to challenge school segregation, how minority populations use a range of political strategies to fight for equality in public education, the difference between de facto and de jure segregation, and the impact of residential segregation on school segregation. Read more…

College Syllabi

  • Syllabus for a 10-week college course based on Wherever There’s a Fight. Download 

  • Syllabus for a DeAnza College Social Psychology course for which Wherever There’s a Fight was the textbook. Download 

  • Syllabus for a College of San Mateo Ethnic Studies course that incorporated Wherever There’s a Fight. Download 

Other Resources

Curricula and educational resources focused on the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans.

  • K-12 Curricula funded by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP)  

    CCLPEP  funds public educational activities and materials to ensure that the events surrounding the exclusion, forced removal, and internment of Japanese Americans will be remembered to ensure that the causes and circumstance of this and similar events may be understood.

    This list  contains over fifty resources that could provide teachers with background and information on the Japanese American experience before, during, and after World War II. The scope of the resources ranges from online bibliography to primary source documents; archival film footage and newsreels; art (i.e., paintings and drawings); oral history transcripts and audio files; documentary films (e.g., Ken Burns’ film about Manzanar); and many collections of photography.

  • Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project

    Densho offers hundreds visual histories (700 hours of recorded video interviews) and over 10,000 historic photos, documents, and newspapers documenting the Japanese American experience from immigration in the early 1900s through redress in the 1980s with a strong focus on the World War II mass incarceration.

  • Manzanar National Historic Site

  • Tule Lake National Monument

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