Joseph Jackson Jr. Made Civil Rights History as a Member of Mississippi's Tougaloo Nine

Mugshot memories
"You know you don't belong here!" a worker yelled at 23-year-old Joseph Jackson Jr. as he walked into the Jackson, Mississippi, main public library on March 27, 1961, to try to desegregate it. "You go back to your library!"

Dozens of angry, white faces surrounded the slight, bespectacled, nervous student as he made his way to the information desk and into the front lines of war. In a couple of months, freedom riders would get arrested by the hundreds in the city; the following year, James Meredith tried to enroll at the University of Mississippi with the help of U.S. Marshals only to have a deadly riot erupt around him. The year after that saw Jackson weather a sit-in at Woolworth and the assassination of legendary activist Medgar Evers. And in 1964, the murder of three civil-rights workers brought in the federal government and led Nina Simone to pen her scintillating smackdown of the Magnolia State, "Mississippi Goddam."

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OC's First Black Resident was an Anaheim Barber Named Drew

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Legendary cover by Luke McGarry
Can't stop sharing this cover...HA!

When one just reads stuff--as opposed to Google, Proquest, Lexis-Nexis or Reddit--you'll discover amazing things. And that's what happened while I was doing research on Rosario "Zarco" Sainz, the Anaheim murder who was OC's last desperado.

I was in the SanTana Public Library, going through microfilm, when I decided to walk around the library stacks. I came across "The History and Development of the Negro Community in Santa Ana, California," a 1967 Cal State master's thesis documenting the city's significant African-American community at the time. Did you know, Orange Countians, that SanTana at one point was not all Mexican? Of course not.

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Vanity Fair Covered Caitlyn Jenner Right--But Don't Forget When They Wronged Transitioning Sportswriter

Cover by Vanity Fair
Go get a copy!

The world is rightfully celebrating both Caitlyn Jenner's personal journey and the great job done by Vanity Fair in telling her story on its cover with a profile and photo shoot. But lost in the praise is how the magazine has improved dramatically from a previous time they had tried to profile someone from the sports world who was transitioning: the sad story of Mike Penner, who was scheduled to appear on the pages of VF as Christine Daniels.

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Interview with Authors of Vietnamese in Orange County

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Thuy Vo Dang
The authors with their new book!

It's no big news that the flag of South Vietnam flies next to the American flag all across Little Saigon. In fact, Little Saigon is no real big news anymore, multipart Orange County Register series notwithstanding. But while the general public knows of the enclave, there's always more to the story.

In a new book called Vietnamese in Orange County, authors Thuy Vo Dang, Linda Trinh Vo, and Tram Le provide historical accounts and artifacts showing how the Vietnamese community has evolved in the county. The Vietnamese-American experience, they say, is far from binary.

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The Legend of Rosario "Zarco" Sainz, OC's Last Desperado

Photo courtesy California State Archives

It wasn't enough for Rosario "Zarco" Sainz to break out of the Orange County Jail, beat up legendary Sheriff Theo Lacy, toss a female Bible-study teacher against a wall, lock them both in a cell, steal a rifle and revolver, then make a run for the border. He also wanted a hat.

Sainz was in for first-degree murder, for shooting a man just for the hell of it. He had done four months for the killing after nearly half a year on the lam, a seemingly ignoble end to a criminal career that included smuggling Chinese immigrants into the United States, assaults, brawls, at least five murders for which he never faced punishment, and more nights in the drunk tank than law enforcement in both OC and Baja California cared to remember. A trip to the gallows seemed certain--and Sainz didn't give a damn.

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NBFF 2015: Fear No Fruit Tells the Story of Produce Pioneer Frieda Caplan

Photo by The Mexican
Frieda's Staircase of Fame

One of OC's most influential yet unheralded pioneers is Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, the founder and head of Frieda's Specialty Produce in Los Alamitos. The produce industry respects her like crazy: not only was she one of the first women in that rough-and-tumble, male-dominated, muy macho world, Frieda also proved to be one of the best produce people ever, specializing in then-obscure products like kiwifruit, jícama, habaneros, Asian pears, and so many more fruits and vegetables that we now take for granted. And her company continues to differentiate itself in the field: it's largely female-driven (Frida's daughters now run the company), they love the color purple, and employee enthusiasm makes kindergarten teachers seem like morticians.

The story of Frieda and her company are the subject of a 90-minute documentary, the awesomely titled Fear No Fruit, that's playing at the Newport Beach Film Festival TOMORROW.

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Why Are Santa Ana's Gentrifiers So Afraid of 4th Street's Quinceañera Shops? UPDATE

Wikimedia Commons
Not as scary for gentrifiers because the dress doesn't have that many ruffles...

UPDATE, 3:11 P.M.: Talked to Quinn, and he said he "respects" all the businesses in downtown SanTana, old-school and New Wave and quinceañera shops included. Regarding his quote, Quinn said he was talking theoretically about why some businesses might thrive in the area while others close, and used quinceañera shops as a general example; he never meant to single them out. Good conversation between us, and we're going to meet in-person next week so I can interview him about his feelings on what's happening downtown because that's what journalism and being a good neighbor is about, right? Stay tuned...

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Gustavo's Latest KCRW "OC Line": On the Passing of Henry T. Segerstrom

Wikimedia Commons
Renee and Henry Segerstrom Center

You cover Orange County long enough, you quickly realize that its lords--its Brens and Argyroses, its Lyonses and Nicholases--are almost all douches one way or another, caught up in slumlord this and cheating that. Leave it to Henry T. Segerstrom to buck that trend--as Clockwork Coker noted in his obit, the worst that we ever heard about the founder of South Coast Plaza and the Orange County Performing Arts Center (later renamed the Segerstrom Center in his honor) was siccing his PR people on us every time we called South Coast Plaza a mall. YIKES!

Anyhoo, Segerstrom's passing last week was the subject of my KCRW "Orange County Line" commentary yesterday.

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Civil War Cannonball Found Near Irvine Has Heads Scratching

Photo by Eric Hood/OC Weekly
Could the cannon fire during a Civil War reenactment in Huntington Beach in September have reached San Diego Creek?
You never know what'll wash up in San Diego Creek near Irvine. An old sneaker. A gnarled piece of oak tree. A Union cannonball from the Civil War.

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Santa Ana Deliberately Burned Down Its Chinatown in 1906--And Let a Man Die to Do It


The atmosphere was jovial as more than 1,000 people gathered in downtown Santa Ana on May 25, 1906, to watch their civic dream come true: the burning of the city's Chinatown.

Politicians and residents alike had long pushed for the torching, and now was the time to do it. The once-thriving area--bounded by present-day Main, Third and Bush streets--was almost vacant, atrophied over the years by anti-Chinese laws that made a peaceful life there impossible. Health officials had just condemned Chinatown's few remaining buildings, rounding up out the last residents as onlookers jeered. A representative of China's minister to the United States was rushing in from Los Angeles, seeking to stop the planned kindling. But Santa Ana would be denied no more.

Families gathered to witness the destruction, along with law enforcement and businessmen--the whole town, it seemed. "It was like a big picnic, or a Fourth of July," an eyewitness recalled decades later. A fire marshal was on the scene to douse coal oil on Chinatown's structures and set the blaze. But light drizzle throughout the day put a damper on everyone's plans; the fire marshal couldn't strike a spark.

That delay thinned the original crowd to a couple of hundred curious onlookers as the evening arrived. But when the first flames curled up to the sky around 8 p.m., visible for blocks around, a stampede returned "in time to see the fun," according to the Santa Ana Evening Blade.

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