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The Free Speech Movement

The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s

Robert Cohen
Reginald E. Zelnik
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 638
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  • Book Info
    The Free Speech Movement
    Book Description:

    This is the authoritative and long-awaited volume on Berkeley's celebrated Free Speech Movement (FSM) of 1964. Drawing from the experiences of many movement veterans, this collection of scholarly articles and personal memoirs illuminates in fresh ways one of the most important events in the recent history of American higher education. The contributors—whose perspectives range from that of FSM leader Mario Savio to University of California president Clark Kerr—-shed new light on such issues as the origins of the FSM in the civil rights movement, the political tensions within the FSM, the day-to-day dynamics of the protest movement, the role of the Berkeley faculty and its various factions, the 1965 trial of the arrested students, and the virtually unknown "little Free Speech Movement of 1966."

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92861-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Leon F. Litwack
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. The Many Meanings of the FSM: In Lieu of an Introduction
    (pp. 1-54)
    Robert Cohen

    Were it not for Mario Savio, the book you now hold in your hands would never have been written. As a young man, Savio played a key role in leading the Free Speech Movement (FSM) to victory in its struggle to end the restrictions the University of California had placed on campus political activity. He was the Berkeley student rebellion’s most eloquent orator, the one who first spoke from atop the police car that his fellow protesters surrounded and immobilized on October 1, 1964, to prevent the arrest of Jack Weinberg, a civil rights activist whose only crime had been...


    • Thirty Years Later: Reflections on the FSM
      (pp. 57-72)
      Mario Savio

      I’d like to share with you some ideas about how my consciousness, my piece of collective consciousness and that of my friends, developed. We had our beginnings in the 1940s and 1950s. [I was born in] 1942. I was a war baby. But spiritually speaking, [our consciousness formed largely] in reaction to the 1950s. It was in reaction to the 1950s that we did the kinds of things that we did.

      [The television sit-com]Roseannerecently had a program where [Roseanne Barr] did Roseanne of the 1950s. It’s really quite remarkable because Roseanne’s caricatured version of the 1950s is in...

    • From Freedom Now! to Free Speech: The FSM’s Roots in the Bay Area Civil Rights Movement
      (pp. 73-82)
      Jo Freeman

      In late March or early April 1964 Mario Savio filled out his application to participate in the Mississippi Summer Project. Asked to list his arrests, he wrote: “The Sheraton-Palace Hotel in San Francisco (a demonstration organized by the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination). At about 4 A.M. on the morning of March 7, 1964, the police began making arrests after the demonstrators, lying down with arms linked, began blocking the exits of the hotel. We were charged with disturbing the peace . . . and are presently out on bail awaiting trial. Our attorneys will probably enter a plea...

    • Holding One Another: Mario Savio and the Freedom Struggle in Mississippi and Berkeley
      (pp. 83-102)
      Waldo Martin

      In the early afternoon of July 22, 1964, on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi, Berkeley student Mario Savio and Robert David Osman, another white volunteer in the Mississippi Summer Project, were walking toward the project’s downtown headquarters. The summer project was the brainchild of Robert Moses, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC’s) Mississippi program. The Mississippi Summer Project’s aim was to bring several hundred white volunteers into the freedom struggle on a short-term basis as a way to catalyze the movement. The idea was to use the expected added publicity to force the federal government to do more...



      • War Is Declared!
        (pp. 105-110)
        Jackie Goldberg

        Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! The rhythmic sound of the printer’s paper cutter provides the background beat for our work. It’s a warm, early September morning. We’re feverishly racing the clock to get out the SLATESupplementbefore classes begin. There are only ten to twelve of us, but we will still put out ten thousand copies of this bulletin—a guide to help UC Berkeley students choose professors and TAs for their classes. I am becoming skilled as a book stitcher myself, a job that’s elegant in its repetitiveness. The comradely feeling of working on a concrete task together always helps...

      • My Life in the FSM: Memories of a Freshman
        (pp. 111-128)
        Margot Adler

        It’s a sunlit morning in 1964. My mother and I are traveling across the country on our way to Berkeley, and she is slowly coming to terms with the departure of her only child for college. I’m floating in a swimming pool somewhere in the Midwest, saying various syllables over and over, like “Oregon” and “all.” I am trying to lose my New York accent; like so many immigrants, I am trying to remake myself.

        Living in New York City, I looked upon Berkeley as so many Americans have looked throughout history upon the West—as an escape from everything...

      • Gender Politics and the FSM: A Meditation on Women and Freedom of Speech
        (pp. 129-139)
        Bettina Aptheker

        My first speech was from the top of the police car that had been dispatched to Sproul Plaza to take Jack Weinberg to jail. It was Thursday, October 1, 1964. I had just turned twenty. It was the beginning of what was to become the Free Speech Movement, named by Weinberg at marathon meetings that weekend. Jack had been arrested at noon that Thursday for distributing civil rights literature and soliciting donations, activity that had recently been banned from the campus. Hundreds of us, many trained in the nonviolent exigencies of the Civil Rights Movement, spontaneously sat down around the...

      • Recollections of the FSM
        (pp. 140-156)
        Martin Roysher

        “The concept of irony doesn’t begin to explain what’s going on here,” Bettina Aptheker (whom we knew as “Tina”) told the hundred or so FSM veterans at the March 2000 opening of the Free Speech Movement Café in the University’s Moffitt Library. Displaying FSM memorabilia, the Café is part of a $3.5 million gift from Berkeley alumnus Steven Silberstein, who worked in the University Library during the FSM and was one of thousands of FSM sympathizers. His sympathies endured as he went on to invent the software that libraries around the world use to keep track of their books. After...

      • A View from the South: The Idea of a State University
        (pp. 157-169)
        Henry Mayer

        I participated in the Free Speech Movement in the certain knowledge that I had exercised my rights as an undergraduate in Chapel Hill more fully than I was permitted to as a graduate student in Berkeley. I also brought to the controversy a vision of the public university as both a haven of freedom and a moral and intellectual beacon for the state that I had absorbed at the University of North Carolina and found distressingly missing from the University of California. Two factors, however, prevented me from expressing these convictions as thoroughly as I wanted. The prevailing stereotypes about...

      • Endgame: How the Berkeley Grads Organized to Win
        (pp. 170-177)
        Steve Weissman

        When Jack Weinberg, the tactical genius of the FSM, warned us never to trust anyone over thirty, I never imagined that at sixty I would be sitting deep in the French countryside looking back over what we had done at Berkeley so many years before. Was it that important? What, if anything, did we accomplish? And what particular role did our graduate students play?

        In my view then and now, the FSM was not a big deal. Only as part of the larger Civil Rights and antiwar movements did our fight for free speech on the Berkeley campus take on...

      • A View from the Margins
        (pp. 178-184)
        David A. Hollinger

        The story of the Free Speech Movement is usually told from the perspective of its recognized leaders and of persons who have volunteered to serve as the historic voices of the FSM decade after decade. Their constructions dominate our picture of the FSM, as well they should. There is no substitute for top-down history. The men and women who did the most to define the movement at the time and whose later lives have been the most obviously caught up in its legacy are rightly the center of our historical gaze. But additional dimensions of the FSM may come into...

      • Dressing for the Revolution
        (pp. 185-188)
        Kate Coleman

        There were plenty of red-diaper babies—children of Commie parents—in lefty politics at Berkeley, but I was not among them. I was a Valley Girl from Encino, California. John Wayne lived on my corner. Patty Andrews, one of the Andrews Sisters, lived across the street. My parents were divorced when I was ten years old. My mother was blind from the time I was three and had additional health problems that prevented her from a working life or even participating fully as a parent. We lived in my rich uncle’s discarded old house in Los Angeles. He’d moved on...

      • The “Rossman Report”: A Memoir of Making History
        (pp. 189-214)
        Michael Rossman

        In the episode of the Free Speech Movement, I think we were inhabited by spirits larger than ourselves, somewhere between ancestral and primordial in nature. We had no cultural vision with which to recognize them as such, nor language to speak of being the vehicles of what flowed through us. All we could say of “the spirit of Democracy” was that this was a metaphor. And all we knew was that the mundane world, in which our ordinary selves felt their ways through the common crisis, had become charged with an extraordinary energy—a luminosity at times almost tangible, yet...

      • The FSM and the Vision of a New Left
        (pp. 215-226)
        Jeff Lustig

        It’s hard to know what to make of the sixties. It resists comprehension in a way other periods do not. Looking back from the vantage of 1964 the meaning of the thirties or the forties seemed clear. Looking back, however, from the longer vantage of the present, the verdict on the sixties is still out. We have yet to agree on its meaning.

        We have yet, in particular, to understand Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement, an early struggle and an eventual catalyst of the largest mass student arrest in the nation’s history. The problem is not with understanding what the FSM...

      • Illustrations
        (pp. None)
      • This Was Their Fight and They Had to Fight It: The FSM’s Nonradical Rank and File
        (pp. 227-263)
        Robert Cohen

        The most well remembered images from the Free Speech Movement are radical. The first famous FSM images were of the mass sit-in around the police car on Sproul Plaza that helped launch the Berkeley student rebellion. Equally memorable was the December student takeover of Sproul Hall, the UC administration building, which occasioned the largest mass arrest of students in American history, yielding news photos and TV shots of student protesters being dragged off to jail. These hundreds of arrests sparked yet more photogenic militancy as thousands of Berkeley students staged a strike to protest the use of police to crush...


      • On the Side of the Angels: The Berkeley Faculty and the FSM
        (pp. 264-338)
        Reginald E. Zelnik

        No simple division of the Berkeley faculty into two polarized factions, “pro-” and “anti-” FSM, can do justice to the historical reality of the fall of 1964. During the days of the Free Speech Movement, I belonged to the loose, informal faculty group eventually known as the “Committee of 200” (or simply “the 200”) and commonly described as “the pro-FSM faculty.” Although in the broadest sense that designation is reasonable, it oversimplifies the complex reality of those troubled and uncertain times, a reality that I hope to illuminate in the present essay. In addition to recounting the story of the...

      • From the Big Apple to Berkeley: Perspectives of a Junior Faculty Member
        (pp. 339-344)
        Lawrence W. Levine

        When one looks back on the events in Berkeley during the 1960s, it is easy to fall into the trap of historical inevitability. It now seems logical that the political and cultural events on American university campuses that captured the attention of the nation in those years had to happen and that Berkeley, California, was the ideal stage for those events to first unfold.

        At the time, however, none of what eventually took place seemed inevitable or, in fact, even likely. I arrived at the University of California at Berkeley in August 1962 to begin what turned out to be...

      • When the FSM Disturbed the Faculty Peace
        (pp. 345-356)
        Leon Wofsy

        I joined the faculty at Berkeley in August 1964, less than two months before the great free speech rebellion began. Coincidence? Not according to the Thirteenth Report of the (California) Senate Fact-Finding Subcommittee on Un-American Activities, June 1965.

        I arrived on campus as a new associate professor in the department of bacteriology and immunology, but the Un-American Committee, headed by state senator Hugh Burns, saw my appointment as a subversive ruse. With vintage McCarthyite vision, it insisted that my Communist background and radical organizing experience as a youth were what really brought me here. So before I ever met Mario...

      • The Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the Campus Ministry
        (pp. 357-361)
        Keith Chamberlain

        When asked whether I could make a contribution to this volume on the Free Speech Movement, my first reaction was to say, ”Under no circumstances.” The episode was too remote from my present existence. And what could I say after thirty-five years had elapsed, especially since I had spent almost all that time in Europe, far from Berkeley and the United States? However, after looking at the scarce written material I could find in my stillto-be-resorted stacks from my last move, from Bad Vilbel back to Frankfurt, I reconsidered. Whether my selective memory will do justice to colleagues, friends, opponents,...


      • Fall of 1964 at Berkeley: Confrontation Yields to Reconciliation
        (pp. 362-398)
        Clark Kerr

        As the Boeing rose from the Narita airport on its long flight from Tokyo to San Francisco in mid-September 1964, I began to think again in an organized way about the University of California. I had been gone for nearly two months. I had left word not to interfere with my trip except for real emergencies. I had heard nothing from or about the University. Vice President Harry Wellman was in charge, and I had total confidence in his good judgment. I had seen an occasionalHerald Tribuneout of Paris left lying around on benches by American tourists, and...


    • Constitutionally Interpreting the FSM Controversy
      (pp. 401-421)
      Robert Post

      A glance at the FSM controversy of 1964 illustrates the remarkable rhetorical and cultural power of First Amendment freedoms. Struggles over these freedoms tend to assume a characteristic narrative form, with those seeking to liberate communication claiming the high ground of progress and emancipation against the retreating forces of conservative authority and censorship. Retrospective accounts of the FSM controversy display the customary earmarks of this narrative, pitting courageous students against a retrograde administration. But reconciling the First Amendment values expressed by this stark narrative to the domain of a public university is genuinely puzzling, for it is clear that universities...

    • December 1964: Some Reflections and Recollections
      (pp. 422-432)
      Robert H. Cole

      For a brief moment thirty-seven years ago, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful seemed to some of us both one and real. This moment came after the vote on the Academic Senate’s December 8 resolution, when a thousand members of the faculty filed out of Wheeler Hall through a narrow path between packed crowds of applauding students. It was the culmination of a week that shook our world. Caught up in intense emotion, our normal routines in shambles, we had been in an unrelenting whirlwind: demonstrations, meetings, negotiations, drafting, arguing, historicizing. We knew we were part of something of...

    • The FSM: A Movement Lawyer’s Perspective
      (pp. 433-446)
      Malcolm Burnstein

      From the perspective of lawyers with a social conscience the decade of the 1960s was a dream come true. For me, nowhere was that sentiment more pertinent than in first counseling and later participating in the criminal defense of the participants in the Free Speech Movement. Movement lawyers were joined at the hip to the student protests from their early days, of course. Certainly that included, inter alia, the criminal defense of those arrested in the FSM.

      Activities such as the FSM defense offered many opportunities for socially conscious lawyers to put our skills and our professional training to work...


    • Mario Savio and Berkeley’s “Little Free Speech Movement” of 1966
      (pp. 449-484)
      Robert Cohen

      It is one of the ironies of history that movements for social change often face some of their most severe tests, challenges, and oppositionafterthey have passed their prime. This was the case, for example, with the Civil Rights Movement, which in the decades following the 1960s confronted a tidal wave of opposition seeking to roll back many of its earlier gains. Similarly, if on a much smaller scale, the Berkeley student movement confronted renewed opposition more than a year after the FSM disbanded. At stake was the free political forum the FSM had won in the Sproul Steps...

    • The Limits of Freedom: Student Activists and Educational Reform at Berkeley in the 1960s
      (pp. 485-510)
      Julie A. Reuben

      In 1968 a Berkeley student, Larry Magid, invited Eldridge Cleaver to teach a course at UC Berkeley. Magid, a member of a student organization called the Center for Participant Education (CPE), had attended a meeting at which a number of black students complained about the dearth of classes dealing with their experiences and political struggles. The CPE had been created to offer the kind of education many Berkeley students perceived they needed but were not getting, so Magid decided that the group should do something to address the students’ complaints. Cleaver at the time was a notorious figure. Many activists...

    • The FSM, Berkeley Politics, and Ronald Reagan
      (pp. 511-518)
      W. J. Rorabaugh

      The Berkeley Free Speech Movement transformed politics in the city of Berkeley and throughout California. After the FSM’s final victory in December 1964, student activists mobilized thousands of supporters, mostly Berkeley residents, as an important new force in local politics. In June 1966 Robert Scheer’s anti–Vietnam War congressional campaign lost in the larger district but carried the city of Berkeley, and a year later a white-black coalition elected the first self-styled radical, the African American Ron Dellums, to the Berkeley city council. In 1970 Dellums was elected to Congress, and the following year the radical Berkeley coalition elected a...

    • Mario Savio’s Second Act: The 1990s
      (pp. 519-530)
      Jonah Raskin

      Sixties radicals have rarely been allowed second acts on the stage of American history and almost never on the obituary pages of the national press. Mario Savio was no exception. Predictably, Savio’s obituaries—in theNew York Times, Los Angeles Times,andWashington Post—emphasized his dramatic role during the Free Speech Movement of the sixties and ignored his complex and impassioned though less flamboyant life afterward. Savio himself, had he written his own obituary, might well have highlighted his career at Sonoma State University (SSU), where he taught as an untenured lecturer from 1990 to 1996 and where he...


    • Mario Savio and the Politics of Authenticity
      (pp. 533-551)
      Doug Rossinow

      Try though he did to prevent such an identification, the Free Speech Movement always comes back to Mario Savio. His effect on his contemporaries was powerful, and his face, voice, and words remain mesmerizing. He was a charismatic presence among the activists of 1964; his comrades testify movingly to his character. Michael Rossman attests to his “authenticity,” a personal state or quality that young people in the 1960s esteemed highly.¹ Savio’s is an elusive personality to the historian. It is not easy to integrate what we know of his public persona with what we read of his private self. His...

    • Remembering Mario
      (pp. 552-556)
      Lynne Hollander Savio

      The Mario Savio I knew for thirty-two years and lived with for eighteen was a person of great intellectual and emotional complexity, engaged by many ideas and ideals. Yet there is little doubt in my mind that the single greatest influence upon his politics and upon his life, apart from that of family dynamics, was his early exposure to Catholicism. Although by high school he was beginning to reject Catholic doctrine (I think he found most of it—virgin birth, resurrection, and so forth—impossible to swallow as a description of reality, while its sexual strictures were too guilt provoking),...

    • Mario, Personal and Political
      (pp. 557-562)
      Suzanne Goldberg

      It is often said that the personal is political: the women’s movement of the seventies and eighties raised our consciousness of the impact that social and political institutions have on how we think about ourselves and define our abilities. And in turn, how we define ourselves determines much of our perspective on social and political institutions and issues.

      I would like in this essay to describe some personal aspects of Mario Savio that had a direct impact on his role in the FSM. There is not the space here to explicate these connections but only, roughly, to sketch some of...

    • Elegy for Mario Savio
      (pp. 563-565)
      Wendy Lesser

      He wasn’t, in the strictest sense of the word, an author. He never published a book. He was even a bit wary of publishing, as I learned when I set out to print one of his commemorative speeches in a 1995 issue ofThe Threepenny Review.He confessed to me, with an almost painful nervousness, that he hesitated to engage in any sort of publication for fear of losing the copyright; and when I assured him that I was acquiring one-time rights only, and that he would retain all further copyright, he explained to me the source of his anxiety....

    • On Mario Savio
      (pp. 566-568)
      Greil Marcus

      In the fall of 1964 at the University of California at Berkeley the United States entered a new stage in its history: in places of privilege, ordinary people once again began to make history. The previous spring, students had helped organize highly effective protests against racist hiring practices in the San Francisco Bay Area. Regional business interests demanded an end to what they considered harassment, and the University—defined by its then-president, Clark Kerr, as a “knowledge factory” meant to serve American productivity—responded by banning all political activity on campus: distributing literature, collecting donations, circulating petitions, publicizing meetings. But...

    • Mario Savio: Avatar of Free Speech
      (pp. 569-570)
      Reginald E. Zelnik

      He was tall and somewhat gangly, and when he hovered above the mike on the steps overlooking Sproul Plaza, he cut an extraordinary figure. That was where I first heard him speak. His face was exceptionally mobile, at times telegraphing the thought that was still being formulated or whose utterance was delayed by an occasional stutter. When he spoke, Mario made full use of his arms and hands, perhaps revealing his Italian origins. (“Sicilian!” his father, a retired machine-punch operator, once corrected me.) He sounded like the New Yorker he was, raised mainly in Queens. Unappreciative at first, I had...

    (pp. 571-574)
    (pp. 575-580)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 581-619)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 620-620)