Witness To History

In October, President Obama declared that a major chapter in American military history was about to come to a close... PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be...
The Bay Area has historically been a population magnet, but few have arrived here to find that their new homes would be train boxcars – still on the tracks – in Richmond, California. Yet this happened just decades ago, beginning in the late 1920s. Perhaps equally as odd: The new inhabitants of...
The rainbow flag flying over the Castro District is symbolic of the gay community. But back in Harvey Milk’s day, San Francisco was not as gay-friendly. Consider the words of Milk’s speechwriter, Frank Robinson, from a promo for the film 2008 “Milk.” FRANK ROBINSON: When he came to town, there were...
Anyone who thinks that gang violence is only a recent concern needs to review some old Western films to be reminded that this condition has existed for centuries. And anyone who wants to read a true, well-written rip-roaring tale of California’s own early lawless days should pick up “BANDIDO: The...
In 1964, the Republican Party was holding its convention in San Francisco. Barry Goldwater was running for president. President Johnson had recently signed the Civil Rights Act, and the Ku Klux Klan was demonstrating publicly in front of City Hall. And Belva Davis was a young black woman working as...
One of the places in the Bay Area that you are most likely to spot a shark – a great white shark, no less – is just over 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco. The Farallon Islands is where a large population of great whites come to breed. The Farallones are also home to large colonies of birds...
It’s been nearly 150 years since Mark Twain’s very formative years in Nevada and California, and it’s been just over a century since he passed away. MARK TWAIN (as read by David Latulippe): The report of my death must have been an exaggeration. Actually, Mr. Twain, I’m sorry to say you did die. It...
KALW's Nancy Mullane was chosen as one of nine media witnesses for the execution of Albert Greenwood Brown that was supposed to take place on Thursday, September 30 at San Quentin Prison. Read Part II and Part III of Nancy Mullane's reflections. I never thought I would be asked to witness an...
While researching how Richmond changed during World War II for the story Remembering the African-American Rosie the Riveter, I spoke with three women who lived in the city at the time. Betty Reid Soskin, who you heard in the piece, introduced me to Lillie Mae Jones, a woman she endearingly...
Where you live might determine the level of healthcare you get, but that’s a shifting landscape. Demographics in the Bay Area have changed during the past half century. Take the city of Richmond. Now, it’s known in the headlines for its violence and crime, but more than half-a-century ago, it was...
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