Civil Rights History at Tropics of Meta

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Martin Luther King Day is unique among American holidays, in the sense that it does not commemorate a religious event like Christmas or Easter, a cultural tradition like Thanksgiving or Halloween, or a former president.  Indeed, MLK Day is the only major holiday in the United States that celebrates the role of a political dissident – there is no William Lloyd Garrison or Susan B. Anthony or Ida Tarbell or Eugene Debs Day in the US.  It gives us occasion to consider the role of activism and political struggle in the making of our (hopefully) “more perfect union.” In that sense, it is perhaps the most American of holidays.

To commemorate the legacy of Dr. King, we have looked back at some of the many essays that deal with civil rights, activism, and social justice we have published over the last six years. Whether surfing or blocking freeways or organizing for better working conditions, women, African-Americans, Chicano/as and countless others fought tooth-and-nail for a better life throughout US history.  These are their stories.

Note: this post has been updated with more recent articles on the same issues. You can also catch Sayf’s epic, MLK-inspired Twitter thread about healthcare here:


Simone Manuel

Say Her Name! Confronting Erasure & Rethinking Possibilities for a Democratic Future


¡La Lucha Continua! Gloria Arellanes and the Making of a Chicano Movement in El Monte and Beyond


Surfing for Freedom: Black Surfers and Reclaiming Cultural History in Los Angeles


Freeway Takeovers: The Reemergence of the Collective through Urban Disruption


Diving into Integration: Sammy Lee, Historical Memory, and the Complexity of Housing Segregation in Cold War California


Working to Play, Playing to Work: Mexican American Baseball and Labor in Southern California


Seventy Years Later: The Zoot Suit Riots and the Complexity of Youth Culture


Courting Division: How Three Southern California Court Cases Bolstered and Hindered Multiracial Civil Rights Movements


The Massive Missed Opportunity

florine stettheimer new york city liberty

Here and Away: African Americans, WWI, and Civil Rights


Double Victory: From WWII to the AVF, African Americans and the U.S. Military


“Looking” for Identity: Gender, Sexuality, and a Brief History of LGBT America


Civil Society and Mass Incarceration