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Exploring the History of Race in California:
A Speaker Series

In Summer 2020, we presented, in collaboration with Old Mission Santa Barbara, a five-part virtual speaker series to explore the role of race and ethnicity in California History. As part of our Franciscan values, we believe in peace, justice, and reconciliation, and we feel that it is important for us to be part of the conversation taking place around the world and to engage with our history. View the recordings below.

An Overview of Race and Ethnicity in California History -

Dr. Robert Senkewicz

California has been a multicultural region for centuries. This introductory session provides a summary overview of the ways in which struggles over race and ethnicity have been constant features of the California experience from the 18th century to the present. 


Robert M Senkewicz is Professor of History Emeritus at Santa Clara University. Together with Rose Marie Beebe he has written a number of books on early California. They include Lands of Promise and Despair: Chronicles of Early California (2001), Testimonios: Early California through the Eyes of Women (2006), and Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary (2015). Their current project is the life and writings of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (1808-1890). Bob spent fourteen years on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library, including seven as the board's Chair.

The Journey Continues: My Family’s Long Association with the Santa Barbara Mission - James Yee

The second session is a personal account of James Yee’s family history with the Santa Barbara Mission and how that history continues today in the form of cultural revitalization efforts in the Barbareño Band of Chumash community. 


Born in Santa Barbara and raised in Goleta, James Yee is a descendant of a long line of Native American Chumash ancestors who have lived in the Santa Barbara area for untold generations. James has a master’s degree in Education from Temple University, Japan Campus. He is the former chairman of the Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians. Currently, he is a graduate student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, studying the language of his ancestors. 

“Don’t Kill Me Sister”: Race and Gender in Mexican California  - Dr. Miroslava Chavez-Garcia

The third session examines a murder and a controversy over Mexican-Indian relations in Mexican California. At the heart of the story is the relationship between two women, Guadalupe Trujillo, the perpetrator, and Ysabel, Trujillo's servant and victim, as well as the larger questions it raises about the meanings of gender and racial power relations and legal justice in Mexican California. 


Miroslava Chávez-García is Professor in the Department of History at UCSB and holds affiliate status in the Departments of Chicana/o Studies and Feminist Studies. Author of Negotiating Conquest: Gender and Power in California, 1770s to 1880s (2004) and States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California’s Juvenile Justice System (2012), Miroslava’s most recent book, Migrant Longing: Letter Writing across the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (2018), is a history of transnational migration, gender, courtship, and identity as told through more than 300 personal letters exchanged across the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. 

Asian American Communities in California  - Dr. Lily Anne Welty Tamai

The fourth session explores the beginning of Asian American communities in late 19th and early 20th century California and how their lives centered around establishing businesses, family, and community. The experiences of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino immigrants echoed one another due to the limitations in labor available to them, anti-Asian legislation, and the spaces they occupied in California’s racialized landscape. 


Dr. Lily Anne Welty Tamai teaches at UCLA in the Asian American Studies Department, and previously served as the Curator of History at the Japanese American National Museum. She earned a doctorate in History from UC Santa Barbara. She conducted research in Japan and in Okinawa as a Fulbright Graduate Research Fellow and was also a Ford Foundation Fellow. Her forthcoming book titled, Military Industrial Intimacy: Mixed-race American Japanese, Eugenics and Transnational Identities (University of Nebraska Press) documents the history of mixed-race American Japanese born after World War II and raised during the post-war period. She serves on the U.S. Census Bureau National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations, and as the Japanese American Citizen’s League Ventura County chapter president.

Black Leaders of Leisure in their Struggle for Freedom and the California Dream during the Jim Crow Era: The Implications of these Stories for Our Lives Today   - Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson

In the final session of the series, Alison Rose Jefferson, illuminates the local stories featured in her new book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era, about African Americans who fought for equal access to California’s recreation and relaxation offerings as they contributed to the broader U.S. freedom rights struggle during from the 1900s to 1960s. Leisure, was not an optional add-on to civil rights, but an essential component of liberty. 


A third generation Californian, Alison Rose Jefferson, M.H.C, Ph.D. is a historian and heritage conservation consultant. She writes history and does programming around it as a tool in the struggle for social justice. She reconstructs the stories of the African American experience which have been left out or marginalized in the telling of American history. She is currently working on public history projects to recognized and commemorate the historical African American experience during the Jim Crow era in Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Her work has garnered attention in KCET-LA programming, the Los Angeles and New York Times newspapers,, and Los Angeles Magazine, among other media outlets. Learn more about Dr. Jefferson’s work at:

SBMAL is open to researchers by appointment only.
NEW HOURS for 2024! Research hours are now available on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 10:00am to 4:00pm.

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