Biddy Mason Speaks Up at the California Historical Society

Tuesday May 21 2019   6:00 PM
California Historical Society  678 Mission St, San Francisco, CA  map

Although a free state upon entering the Union in 1850, California was an important site for the struggle over the meaning of citizenship. The movement against slavery in California was led and financed by African Americans, and included at least two well-known court cases, the 1858 case of Archy Lee in San Francisco and of Biddy Mason in Los Angeles in 1856. This program will explore the actions of Biddy Mason and the community that surrounded her, revealing California’s origins in contradiction. Leader, midwife, and philanthropist, Biddy Mason invested in the future of Los Angeles and had an impact across the state.

Author Laura Atkins will discuss her new release, Biddy Mason Speaks Up, which was cowritten with Arisa White. Aimed at middle grade readers, the book explores Biddy Mason’s life and gives readers tools to speak up in their own communities. Susan Anderson is Director of Collections, Library, Exhibitions, and Programs at the California Historical Society and will present on slavery and resistance in California history.

About the Speakers:

Susan Anderson is California Historical Society’s Director of Collections, Library, Exhibitions, and Programs. Before joining CHS, Susan Anderson served as Interim Chief Curator at the African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Curator at UCLA Library Special Collections, and Managing Director of “LA As Subject,” an association of 200 archival institutions in Los Angeles County. She is the author of Nostalgia for a Trumpet: Poems of Memory and History, and has published widely on California’s African American past. Her most recent book, African Americans and the California Dream: A History, will be published by Heyday Books.

Laura Atkins is a children’s book author and editor. In addition to co-writing Biddy Mason Speaks Up (2019) with Arisa White, she co-wrote Fred Korematsu Speaks Up (2017), winner of several awards including the Carter G. Woodson Award and the Jane Addams Honor Award. She and co-author Stan Yogi have spoken to over 8,000 students at over 50 schools. She also wrote the picture book, Sled Dog Dachshund. Laura worked at Children’s Book Press and Lee & Low Books and freelances as a children’s book editor. With an MA in Children’s Literature and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Laura, based in Berkeley, is passionate about diversity and equity in children’s books.

Open to the public; $5 general admission/FREE for CHS members. Register here.

Laura Atkins

Laura Atkins is an author, teacher, and independent children’s book editor with over twenty years of editorial experience. She worked at Children’s Book Press, Orchard Books, and Lee and Low Books, helping to produce winners of the Coretta Scott King Award and American Library Association Notable Book selections, among others. She taught creative writing at the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL) in London, where she also received her M.A. in children’s literature, and she completed her M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2016. In addition to cowriting Fred Korematsu Speaks UpLaura is the author of the lighthearted picture book Sled Dog Dachshund (Minted Prose Press). Passionate about diversity and equity in children’s books, Laura is based in Berkeley, California, where she lives with her daughter. Find out more at