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History Café

Ever wondered how Seattle came to own most of a river for its drinking water? What were Seattlites up to during the Civil War? What’s underneath the steep hill that Pike Place Market sits upon? Join MOHAI and HistoryLink on the third Wednesday of the month for a discussion about local history—both popular and obscure—and discover something new.

Join a monthly conversation uncovering unique Seattle stories relevant to a changing community.

Explore the Stories

History Café: Writing and Remembrance with Tamiko Nimura

From Japanese American farmers on Vashon Island to the life of State Senator Rosa Franklin, writer and public historian Tamiko Nimura documents stories of people of color from around our state.

Join Nimura and HistoryLink‘s Assistant Director Jennifer Ott for an exploration of memory in history making, oral histories and writing about peoples lives.

Program date: November 18, 2020

Photo: Legislative Photo Services

History Café: Lessons in Building Multiracial Unity with El Centro de la Raza

Seattle’s Latino community successfully founded El Centro de la Raza, the Center for People of all Races, after a 3-month occupation of the old Beacon Hill School in 1972. With the support of a broad multi-racial coalition, today El Centro de la Raza provides important and comprehensive services bringing together communities to organize for lasting social change. Hear from founders and community members on lessons learned from the occupation and how these inform current struggles for racial justice.

Moderated by Enrique Cerna with panelists Enrique Gonzalez, Larry Gossett, Bruce Johansen, Estela Ortega, Sharon Tomiko Santos, and Michael Tulee.

Program date: October 21, 2020

Photo: Jonathan Vanderweit

History Café: Stories from Ron Chew’s My Unforgotten Seattle

Third-generation Seattleite, historian, journalist, and museum visionary Ron Chew spent more than five decades fighting for Asian American and social justice causes in Seattle.

In this virtual History Café, Chew is joined by PeiPei Sung, a former student intern, turned oral history interviewer, turned exhibit developer under the wings of the Wing Luke Asian Museum family. Sung is currently a designer at MOHAI. Join us in this conversation and hear stories about immigration, activism, community work, and hopes for the future through Chew’s upcoming memoir My Unforgotten Seattle.

Program date: September 16, 2020

History Café: Resilience Past and Present in the Chinatown International District

Seattle’s historic Chinatown-International District (CID) was hit early and hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis, underscoring the history of redlining, racism, and speculative development that have made this diverse community vulnerable to displacement and anti-Asian hate.

However, the CID also has a long legacy of resistance and resilience. Hear from local CID Coalition/#HumbowsNotHotels activists Cynthia Brothers (also of Vanishing Seattle) and Marlon Dylan Herrera, who share reflections on past and present organizing in the CID—including how community members are responding to the inequalities laid bare by COVID-19 through mutual aid and advocacy, to leverage this moment of crisis in support of lasting, transformative change for the neighborhood.

Program date: May 20, 2020

History Café: Puget Sound’s Maritime Highway

From canoes, to the mosquito fleet, to our modern day ferry system, boats have long been a principal means of travel around Puget Sound.

In this talk, based on research from his next book on human and natural history in Puget Sound, David B. Williams highlights how people have spent the last 13,000 years boating this extraordinary waterway.

Program date: April 21, 2020

History Café Audio Archive

Hear past History Café programs, with topics ranging from Seattle through the eyes of its first Chinese resident to the city’s classical music scene.

Syncopated Classic: Rediscovering an Early Seattle Jazz Pioneer

In 1924, Seattle Jazz pioneer Frank D. Waldron created 9 original compositions for his saxophone tutorial book Syncopated Classic. Obscured by time, these works are the earliest archived compositions by a Seattle jazz musician. Greg Ruby, a Seattle jazz musician, unearthed this rare archive and performed Waldron’s work and discussed his life, the times, and importance to Seattle Jazz history at this November 2015 History Café.

The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop

As a prelude to The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop exhibit, Dr. Daudi Abe discussed the Seattle Hip-Hop community, from Seattle’s champion break dance crew, to highly collaborative and diverse performers and DeeJays. Dr. Abe is a professor, writer and historian who has taught classes on culture, race, gender, communication, education, hip-hop and sports, and wrote Emerald Street: A History of Hip-Hop in Seattle 1979-2015.

Uncorking the Past at Seattle's Finntown

Recent archaeological excavation of Seattle’s Smith Cove shantytown, capped by 12 feet of fill in the 1940s, has provided a look at a multi-cultural Prohibition and Depression-era community. During this History Cafe, Alicia Valentino, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation, discuss the artifacts found and this unique story within Seattle’s history.

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