Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

The first-ever account of the struggle to develop and protect rights in the Golden State

Wherever There’s a Fight captures 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. The book tells the stories of the brave individuals who have stood up for their rights in the face of social hostility, physical violence, economic hardship, and political stonewalling.

It connects the experiences of early Chinese immigrants subjected to discriminatory laws to those of professionals who challenged McCarthyism and those of people who have fought to gain equal rights in California schools: people of color, people with disabilities, and people standing up for their religious freedom. The authors bring a special focus to the World War II internment of Japanese Americans, focusing on the infamous Korematsu case, which was foreshadowed by a century of civil liberties violations and reverberates in more recent times—regrettably, even today in the Patriot Act. And they follow the ongoing struggles for workers’ rights and same-sex marriage.

State and federal constitutions spell out many liberties and rights, but it is the people who challenge prejudice and discrimination that transform those lofty ideals into practical realities. Wherever There’s a Fight paints vivid portraits of these people and brings to light their often hidden stories.

Winner of the Gold Medal in the 2010 California Book Awards

A Foreword Book of the Year


“Should itself become required reading in our state's underfunded and largely segregated schools.”

San Francisco Chronicle


“Elinson (coauthor of The Development Debacle) and Yogi (co-editor of Highway 99) offer crucial perspective on the history of minority rights in a state long considered a political trendsetter....Readers will find this an essential reference in navigating the slogan-riddled civil rights issues of the day.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)


“Through inspired story-telling, this comprehensive book tracks the struggles of California's many diverse peoples for full humanity. Wherever There's a Fight is not only a definitive reference book, it's an engaging must-read for anyone who cares about the people's history that shaped civil liberties far beyond the Golden State.”

—Helen Zia, author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People


“A highly readable and enormously informative overview of the long and continuing struggle to protect and extend civil liberties in California that makes clear that protection of our civil liberties demands constant vigilance by the people.”

—Robert L. Allen, professor of African Studies & Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Port Chicago Mutiny


“A prodigious work.”

—Mike Farrell, president of Death Penalty Focus and author of Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist and Of Mule and Man


“Elinson and Yogi recall a history of struggle, hope, defeat and victory. This is a shared history and the real gift of this work is in deepening our understanding of how tightly our fates are bound together. An inspiring and enlightening perspective.”

—Kate Kendell, executive director, National Center for Lesbian Rights


“A most significant contribution to the history and herstory of the struggle for freedom and civil liberties in the United States, Wherever There's a Fight pays tribute to women and men of all colors who have shaped the legacies that we must honor today and the continuing struggle for an authentic multiracial democracy.”

—Dr. Carlos Muñoz, Jr., scholar, activist, and award-winning author of Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement

About the Authors

Elaine ElinsonElaine 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 Daily Journal, 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.

Photo by Matthew Elinson

Stan Yogi

Stan Yogi is the coauthor, with Elaine Elinson, of Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California. 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 Daily Journal, and several anthologies. He is married to nonprofit administrator David Carroll and lives in Los Angeles.

Photo by Michael Woolsey