Ethnic Studies: Los Angeles

"In Your Own Backyard": Civil Liberties Then and Now


Detail of "History of Medicine in California" at Coit Tower in San Francisco. Painted by Bernard Zakheim, 1938.

In 2021, California mandated a minimum of a one semester course on ethnic studies in each secondary school by 2025 and required the course for graduation by 2030. “In Your Own Backyard: Civil Liberties Then and Now” offers secondary teachers and their students the opportunity to explore the intersection of ethnic studies and civil liberties. The primary source-based lessons and the accompanying field trip options in Los Angeles allows students to discover that “history,” ethnic diversity, and the concomitant denial of civil liberties is not something that happens “over there” but something that happens “in your own backyard.” In the United States, both the Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees equality and civil liberties for all. This program introduces historical ethnic groups highlighting the interaction between ethnic diversity and civil liberties: human dignity, immigrant inclusion, racial equity, smart justice, and indigenous rights. The modules and the accompanying website discuss ethnic groups identifying as persons of Asian ancestry, Hispanic ancestry, Native American ancestry, and African ancestry. Case studies describe the experiences of each population to enhance contemporary discussions of historical ethnic studies. Each of the five topics includes biographies and lesson plans, for classroom work and/or the accompanying field trip plan.

Landscape of Tuna Canyon camp.

Human Rights: Japanese Incarceration during World War II - Tuna Canyon Internment Center

Tongva Woman

Indigenous Peoples: Ballona Wetlands - Ballona Discovery Center in Playa Vista

Arcadia Street in Los Angeles c. 1882.

Racial Justice: African-Americans in Early California - Biddy Mason Park

Etching of Old Chinatown, Los Angeles.

Immigrant Rights: Chinese in Early California - Chinatown

Man arrested during Zoot Suit Riots.

Smart Justice: Chavez Ravine - Elysian Park