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Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City

September 14, 20177:00 pm9:15 pm


Home to one of the largest oil refineries in the state, Richmond, California, was once a traditional company town dominated by Chevron. This largely nonwhite city of 110,000 suffered from poverty, pollution, violent street crime, and poorly funded public services. But in 2012, when journalist Steve Early moved to Richmond, he encountered a community that was bravely struggling to reinvent itself. In his new book Refinery Town, Early chronicles the fifteen years of civic activism that improved public safety, raised Richmond’s minimum wage, challenged home foreclosures and evictions, and demanded fair taxation of Big Oil and Big Soda. This compelling story of a city remade provides a model for citizens engaged in local politics and community building anywhere.

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Co-sponsored by the California Studies Association and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

This talk is part of the California Studies Dinners series, a forum for the discussion of California politics, economy, and society that meets once a month on the Berkeley campus. It brings together scholars, students, and specialists from around the Bay Area to hear speakers talk about new books, research and ideas of note concerning California. The series has been going strong for twenty years (with a predecessor going back thirty years!), and is the finest intellectual forum on California history, geography and public affairs in Northern California.


Steve Early is a labor journalist, lawyer, organizer, and union representative. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Mother Jones, and many other publications.