My new book Sacramento Renaissance owes a lot to Sacramento Press. Several sections of the book were developed from articles originally written for Sacramento Press, including articles about how downtown Sacramento lost 30,000 people due to redevelopment, and some of the research was shown at presentations promoted here, like "The Downtown Generation" at a TDA forum inside Downtown Plaza. I published an excerpt on Sacramento’s early gay pride parades here, a bit about filmmaker Russ Meyer’s visit to Sacramento, and promoted a "Living Library" talk with Stan Lunetta, one of the 25 Sacramentans I interviewed for the book. A lot of the themes and ideas used in this book even pop up in comment sections of Sacramento Press articles, so some parts may sound familiar to regular contributors to this site. But the new book includes a lot of information that may surprise students of Sacramento history–as it certainly surprised me.
On Thursday, September 12 at 7:00 PM, Time Tested Books (1117 21st Street, Sacramento) will host the first signing and talk for Sacramento Renaissance, published by The History Press. The presentation will include some of the images used in the book, and a few that didn’t make it into the final version. The book covers Sacramento’s story during the civil rights era and the era of downtown redevelopment, in some ways picking up where my previous book, Sacramento’s K Street, left off. Photos came from the Center for Sacramento History (whose affiliated Sacramento History Foundation receives half the royalties from the book), the Sacramento Lavender Library, the Western Railway Museum and the personal photograph collections of many of the people I interviewed.
Much of the story is told in the form of direct quotes from those interviewed for the book, sharing their own experiences. The one person quoted the most was Socorro Zuniga, who grew up in Sacramento in the 1920s and 30s, and shared her perspective as an artist, activist, social worker, and witness to Sacramento’s 20th century growth and transition. I also interviewed two former Sacramento mayors, Burnett Miller and Anne Rudin, the archivist of the Black Panther Party, activist George Raya, KZAP music director Jeff Hughson, stained glass artist Mickey Abbey, Suttertown News publisher Tim Holt, artist Dennis Bylo, just to name a few. Each shared their memories of the era from the 1940s to the 1980s. They talked about the music scene, from West End jazz clubs to free psychedelic rock concerts in Land Park, the art scene at influential galleries like the Belmonte in Oak Park or the Beginning on L Street, and political protests like the 1966 United Farm Workers march from Delano to Sacramento, the Black Panthers’ walk onto the California State Assembly floor, and the 1980 March on Sacramento for Gay and Lesbian Rights. Their activism marked a turning point in the idea of redevelopment, leaving their mark on the city with mid-century art and architecture like Shiloh Baptist Church, the murals of the Royal Chicano Air Force, and downtown Sacramento’s Chinatown Mall.
The chapters address the fundamental question of "What happened to the 30,000 people displaced from downtown, and where did they go?" Chapters on Oak Park, Alkali Flat, Southside Park and Downtown address how these four neighborhoods changed after the construction of Capitol Mall and Interstate 5. In the 1960s, Sacramento was not a social backwater, but a battleground of the civil rights movement. National leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez came to Sacramento to address the leaders and people of California from the center of state governent, and their words and actions inspired Sacramentans to take action on the local level.
The final two chapters address the groups who were drawn to Sacramento’s old city in the 1960s and 1970s: counterculture hippies, and the gay/lesbian community. Many of the hippies who had come of age in the 1960s began their working life in the 1970s, starting arts-based businesses and restaurants in what is now midtown Sacramento. Others came to work in state government to enact change from within the system, and liked the idea of walking to work more than driving downtown from the suburbs. The neighborhood known as "Lavender Heights" also emerged during this era. The leaders of Sacramento’s gay activist community were inspired directly by the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and also brought their own wave of community leaders and businesspeople. By 1980, the tide of redevelopment turned, and the population of downtown Sacramento started going upward for the first time in 30 years. There is plenty more to the story–but you’ll have to read the book to learn the rest, or at least stop by on Thursday evening.
Sacramento Renaissance Book Signing and Talk
Thursday September 12, 2013, 7:00 PM
Time Tested Books, 1117 21st Street
This event is free and open to the public.
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[Sponsored: The Midtown Arts Festival is a FREE one-day event will take place on Saturday, October 19th. The event is a vibrant, artistically diverse outdoor festival anchored in the heart of Midtown at 20th and J Streets. You or your business can support the MBA by becoming a sponsor of our annual event. Sign up to be a sponsor.]