The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West (ICW) is a center for scholarly investigation of the history and culture of California and the American West. Through sponsorship of innovative scholarship, research and programming, ICW draws on the resources of the University of Southern California and The Huntington Library to build a unique collaboration amongst a research university, a research library, and the public.


Welcome to ICW’s new website. Some of our menus above have changed and we appreciate your patience as we continue to add features.

ICW is pleased to share our Fall Programming and hope you are able to participate. We start the semester with “Part II of Managing Wildfires in Los Angeles County.” And then we move to a two-part series on Los Angeles in Conversation with the World – with an event on political violence in LA and Belfast and a second event on wildfires in Canada and California. Learn more and register here.

ICW is seeking a new team-member. From co-producing the podcast to updating the website to managing financial transactions and more, the Administrative Coordinator’s work is critical to ICW. If you are interested in joining us, check out the job description for ICW’s Administrative Coordinator position.

USC doctoral student Julia Brown-Bernstein awarded the inaugural Brooke L. Blower and Sarah T. Phillips Essay Prize

ICW is thrilled to announce that USC doctoral student Julia Brown-Bernstein has been awarded the inaugural Brooke L. Blower and Sarah T. Phillips Essay Prize from the new Modern American History journal.

Julia’s essay, drawn from her doctoral thesis, is an exploration of how the neoliberal order gained hegemony in one specific region of Southern California, the East San Fernando Valley. Drawing on archival research and original oral history interviews, “Bring ‘The Plant’ to Life” makes an important intervention into late-twentieth century history, specifically the histories of deindustrialization and neoliberalism. Julia’s work earned special praise from the selection committee for the ways in which she “shows in concrete, fine-grained detail the political consequences of the transformation of urban space in an era of deindustrialization.”

Congratulations, Julia!

Julia Brown Bernstein working at desk.

From the Director

On behalf of the Institute on California and the West, welcome to our new website. We are grateful to our friends in USC Dornsife who have helped us with the transition to this new digital space; I am especially grateful to Elizabeth Logan, Stephanie Yi, and Jessica Kim, my ICW colleagues, for all that they have done to make this happen.

I invite you to scroll through these pages to see the range of ICW projects over the last two decades. Our work investigating the history and culture of the modern American West is characterized by a set of activities that seek to bridge scholarly and public audiences, dialogues, and contributions to knowledge. We are committed to our work and our many collaborations, and we urge you to reach out to us with questions, comments, and suggestions about other directions we might explore. We take every suggestion seriously, and our dialogues with you strength our work and outreach.

April 27, 2023

“A Cruel Jest”: Black Towns, Public Land, and Homesteading in the Nineteenth-Century West

Gary Stein

“It’s a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself up by his own bootstraps.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., May 1967

Dr. King was exhausted. It had been four years since he famously had a dream, and more than a decade since he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott that accelerated the civil rights movement.



Published in partnership with the University of California Press, ICW’s scholarly series Western Histories questions and deepens collective understanding of the history of California and the American West. In addition to the partnership with UC Press, ICW has published stand-alone texts including, Form and Landscape and Past Due.


USC Courses

Through ICW, USC faculty teach undergraduate courses at USC and graduate courses at The Huntington, directly weaving the library’s scholarly materials into the professional training of students. Doctoral and postdoctoral students in USC Dornsife College utilize the breadth of The Huntington collections in their path-breaking research on the history of the American West. At the graduate level, ICW is at the nexus of inter-university collaboration with students and scholars from UCLA, University of California, Riverside, University of California, Irvine, and others.

Study LA

Los Angeles History Syllabi

Drawing on academic partners throughout the region, syllabi from courses focused on Los Angeles history reflect the range of approaches to better understanding this space.

Contact Us

Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West

University of Southern California
Van Hunnick Department of History
Los Angeles, CA 90089

Los Angeles Service Academy (LASA)

University of Southern California
Van Hunnick Department of History
Los Angeles, CA 90089

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