The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California, 1941-1978

ISBN : 9780195160505

Mark Brilliant
384 ページ
156 x 235 mm

Winner of the William Nelson Cromwell Book Prize of the American Society for Legal History
Honorable Mention, Frederick Jackson Turner Award of the Organization of American Historians


  • First book to explore the multiracial nature of Civil Rights reform in California.
  • Offers a glimpse into contemporary politics of civil rights, which now resemble California nationally.

From the moment that the attack on the "problem of the color line," as W.E.B. DuBois famously characterized the problem of the twentieth century, began to gather momentum nationally during World War II, California demonstrated that the problem was one of color lines.
In The Color of America Has Changed, Mark Brilliant examines California's history to illustrate how the civil rights era was a truly nationwide and multiracial phenomenon-one that was shaped and complicated by the presence of not only blacks and whites, but also Mexican Americans, Japanese Americans, and Chinese Americans, among others. Focusing on a wide range of legal and legislative initiatives pursued by a diverse group of reformers, Brilliant analyzes the cases that dismantled the state's multiracial system of legalized segregation in the 1940s and subsequent battles over fair employment practices, old-age pensions for long-term resident non-citizens, fair housing, agricultural labor, school desegregation, and bilingual education. He concludes with the conundrum created by the multiracial affirmative action program at issue in the United States Supreme Court's 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke decision. The Golden State's status as a civil rights vanguard for the nation owes in part to the numerous civil rights precedents set there and to the disparate challenges of civil rights reform in multiracial places.
While civil rights historians have long set their sights on the South and recently have turned their attention to the North, advancing a "long civil rights movement" interpretation, Mark Brilliant calls for a new understanding of civil rights history that more fully reflects the racial diversity of America.


Introduction: "The Color of America Has Changed"
1. "A United Front of All of the Minority Groups"
2. "Jap Crow"
3. "The Problem of Segregation as Applied to Mexican-Americans"
4. "Jim Crow is Just About Dead in California"
5. "Problems as Diversified as its Population"
6. "A Coalition...For Many Years"
7. "Ya Basta!"
8. "To Break Up Coalitions of Minority People"
Conclusion: "Dilemmas of Race and Ethnicity"


Mark Brilliant is an Assistant Professor of History and American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Rarely does a book cast a well-known, heavily trafficked subject area such as civil rights in an entirely new light. However, Mark Brilliant's The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California accomplishes precisely that...Compelling."--Law and History Review

"This ambitious and sweeping book is beautifully written and incredibly timely. With optimism and humanity, Mark Brilliant relates the long-overlooked history of the multiracial struggles for civil rights in twentieth-century California. The Color of America Has Changed challenges us to move beyond the black-white paradigm of civil rights while incisively analyzing the complexities that have long bedeviled a broader perspective. This book has the power to transform our national conversation about American racial equality."--Risa Goluboff, author of The Lost Promise of Civil Rights

"This deeply researched, comprehensive, and ground-breaking history of mid-twentieth century California demonstrates the importance of including the entire country in the story of the struggle for civil rights. Mark Brilliant's book is essential reading for understanding a past that isn't close to being over yet."--John Mack Faragher, Yale University

"In this much anticipated book, Mark Brilliant has written the essential history of California's multiracial civil rights movements. No one interested in race and politics in modern America can afford to ignore this carefully crafted, powerful book."--Robert O. Self, Brown University
"California has long been the most racially diverse state in the nation, and since World War II has been in the forefront of dismantling America's racial regime. In this deeply researched and utterly convincing history, Mark Brilliant reveals how California's multiple 'color lines' have complicated the prospect of cross-racial cooperation as Asian, Mexican, and African Americans pursued similar civil rights goals along different and often conflicting legal and political trajectories. The Color of America Has Changed gives us much to think about as we ponder how the most racially diverse nation in the world will-or will not-become a more perfect union."--Neil Foley, author of Quest for Equality: The Failed Promise of Black-Brown Solidarity

"The problem of the twentieth century, argues Mark Brilliant in this important book, was the problem of color lines. California's diversity posed real challenges for activists and policymakers attempting to deal with the inequalities of race and ethnicity. Brilliant's history of California's 'wide civil rights movement' undermines the simple dualisms and racial romanticism that still dominate twentieth-century histories of the struggles for minority rights."--Thomas J. Sugrue, author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North

"Brillant's writing is inventive and compelling and the research is exhaustive and impecably documented."--Daniel Martinez HoSang, University of Oregon
"The seminal work defining the western civil rights movement....The Color of America Has Changed is required reading for twentieth-century American historians, especially those concerned with social and civil rights and with ethno-cultural and legal history."--History: Reviews of New Books

"Mark Brilliant has written a stirring narrative of the political and legal efforts to address racial injustice during the post-World War II period of California history....He weaves together a wonderfully complex story of multiple actors and organizations that labored on local, statewide, and national levels to address institutionalized racism in the workplace and the home....A superlative contribution toward a more broadened vision."--Western History Quarterly