Book of the Week: Steven W. Hackel, Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father

As we celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Hacker’s book allows us to reflect on another history of civil rights denied–to native Americans.

Which Father Junipero Serra do you recognize when you see his statue in the U.S. Capitol? The pioneer who initiated California’s agricultural greatness? The heroic religious icon, founder of the famous missions, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II? Or the colonial imperialist who devastated California’s native peoples in his zeal to convert them to Catholicism? Hacker sheds light on the mixed legacy of one of our neglected founding fathers. He illuminates the dark secrets of the missionaries’ treatment of native Californians and the costs of conversion for their freedom and health.

For those of us who love California, it is fascinating to reflect on the “growing incongruity between the historical Serra–who devoted himself to the universalism of Catholicism, the suppression of individualism, and the renunciation of materialism–and the modern place to which his legacy is now bound.”