Felicia Viator

Assistant Professor
(415) 338-6177
Building: Science
Room Number: 267B
Office Hours: 
Monday: 11:00 am-12:30 pm
Wednesday: 11:00 am-12:30 pm


I’m an American historian with a focus on nineteenth and twentieth century social and cultural history. I’m especially interested in California, popular entertainment, and youth culture. I explore all three in my first book, To Live and Defy in L.A: How Gangsta Rap Changed America (2020). It’s an origin story of “reality rap” woven into the unique and complex history of black Los Angeles. Hip-hop scholars have a habit of treating L.A. rap as a renegade outgrowth of the music genre that only mattered for a couple of years in the 1990s. But I put the music and its creators squarely at the center of the story of how hip-hop radically and forever transformed America’s pop culture landscape.

My next book will likely explore youth, parenting, and fear in late twentieth century suburban life, with a focus on “stranger danger” concerns, the Satanic Panic trials, Just Say No anti-drug campaigns, cable TV, and, yes, rap music. In the meantime, I recently published a couple of articles, including one on black mobile DJ crews in 1980s Los Angeles, a pet project inspired by my first career as a Bay Area mobile DJ.

In the classroom, my goal is, first, to tell compelling stories and, second, to help all my students––history majors and non-majors alike––develop the kinds of critical reading and persuasive communication skills that they can apply to any career. If you take a class with me, you might just discover how much history matters. 


  • Ph.D., History, UC Berkeley, 2012
  • B.A., History, UC Berkeley, 1999


  • California and the West
  • African American History
  • Youth and Childhood
  • The Reagan Era
  • Popular Culture


  •  To Live and Defy in L.A: How Gangsta Rap Changed America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, under contract)
  • "West Coast Originals: A Case for Reassessing the 'Bronx West' Story of Black Youth Culture in 1980s Los Angeles," American Studies Journal: New Directions in Black Western Studies (October 2019)  
  • Abraça a Tristeza’”: Fado and Fadocore Music in the California Central Valley.” In Untamed Dreams: Faces of America, eds. Francisco Henrique Dinis and José do Couto Rodrigues (San Jose: Portuguese Heritage Publications of California, 2016
  • “Neta,” in Women in the Azores and the Immigrant Communities, ed. Rose Simas (Ponta Delgada: Empressa Grafica Açoriana, 2003)
  • Review of The Heart of the Mission: Latino Art and Politics in San Francisco by Cary Cordova, H-Net Reviews (October 2018)
  • Review of Segregated Soldiers: Military Training at Historically Black Colleges in the Jim Crow South by Marcus S. Cox, The Journal of American Culture (September 2014), 377-378
  • Review of Filipinos Represent: DJs, Racial Authenticity, and the Hip-Hop Nation by Antonio T. Tiongson, Jr., American Studies Journal (April 2014), 200-201


  • San Francisco State University Presidential Award for Professional Development
  • Arthur Ferreira Pinto Foundation Fellowship
  • Luso-American Education Foundation Fellowship
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award
  • Doctoral Speaker for UC Berkeley History Commencement 2013
  • Historical Society of Southern California's Ahmanson Foundation Grant for Publication
  • History Discipline Coordinator and Program Designer for new Social Science Waiver Program, SFSU, 2017 – Present
  • Faculty Curriculum Advisor, CURE Program Innovation Project, History, SFSU, 2019
  • Faculty Mentor for UC Berkeley Graduate Teaching and Learning Working Group, 2014 - 2015
  • Program Coordinator and Teacher for Urban Arts Academy After-School Program, Calvin Simmons Middle School, Oakland, 2001 - 2002
  • Social Studies Teacher for the Prison University Project, San Quentin State Prison, 1997- 1999