Simultaneous with the Southern Freedom Movement and closely connected to it, a vibrant Civil Rights Movement also existed in the North ("North" meaning outside the South). Nowhere was that more evident than the San Francisco Bay Area. Between 1960-1968, the number of people arrested on civil rights protests in the 'Frisco-Oakland-Berkeley triangle was larger than any other American town or urban area — except for Selma and Birmingham Alabama.
As was the case everywhere, most of those who protested and went to jail for freedom and equality were students and teenagers. They were the warriors of nonviolent direct action. University of California Berkeley, San Francisco State, and local community colleges campuses were hotbeds of movement activity as groups like Congress of Racial Equality, the Ad Hoc Committee, and Friends of SNCC, organized to support the movement in the South and to oppose local employment discrimination and segregated housing.
Though by 1964, UC professors were no longer required to sign loyalty oaths avowing that they held no dangerous or subversive thoughts, stifling legacies of McCarthyite "Red Scare" political repression still remained. On-campus student political activities were severely restricted. Students could not publicly speak about the Civil Rights Movement, or post notices, or hand out flyers without obtaining prior written permission from UC administrators (who often refused). Nor could they recruit participants for off-campus civil rights actions, or raise funds for the movement in the South.
And, of course, labor unions of any and all kinds were prohibited for UC faculty, staff, and student employees.
There was one exception, however, to the no student political activity rule. The university claimed that a narrow strip of sidewalk along Bancroft Avenue at the main campus entrance was city property outside of their jurisdiction — and therefore, governed by First Amendment freedom of speech rights. It was on that small patch of ground that CORE, SNCC, Ad Hoc Committee, SDS, peace & anti-war, Young Democrats & Young Republicans, and many other groups, set up literature tables, handed out flyers, held small rallies, collected funds, and in 1964 recruited volunteers for Freedom Summer.
The "Bancroft Strip" was also used by students to organize protests against the racist hiring practices of many Bay Area employers. Among them was the Oakland Tribune, a conservative daily newspaper owned by former Senator Knowland who was at that time the head of the state Republican Party. He was not amused. He was also chair of the California for Goldwater presidential campaign and host for the 1964 Republican National Convention that was held in July at the San Francisco Cow Palace. That convention was picketed by civil rights protesters, some of whom had been recruited on the Bancroft Strip. He was not amused by that either. He wanted the Strip shut down and he so informed the UC Board of Regents.
In September of 1964, SNCC & CORE activists including Freedom Summer volunteers just returning from Mississippi, were informed by the Dean of Students that the university had just discovered that it did own the Bancroft Strip after all. And they were now asserting control over it. Therefore, political activities — such as protesting employment discrimination at the Tribune — were now forbidden as of the first day of class, September 21, 1964.
To the self-evident surprise of the Regents, Chancellor Kerr, administrators, and the state's all-white powers-that-were, students who had risked their lives defying the Ku Klux Klan and brutal southern sheriffs were no longer intimidated by edicts from dough-face bureaucrats. Negotiations failed, and on September 28 student groups began asserting their constitutionally-protected free speech rights at Sather Gate in the heart of the university campus. Student leaders were cited for violating university regulations and suspended. On October 1, the cops were called and CORE leader Jack Weinberg was arrested for sitting at his group's literature table. The Free Speech Movement then erupted into a nonviolent mass student uprising that encompassed a broad spectrum of campus organizations and political issues.
CORE activist Bruce Hartford, who was on his way to join the movement in Selma Alabama, was visiting Berkeley in early December. He was present outside Sproul Hall when an army of 600 police arrested over 800 protesting students. He stayed for several days to lend a hand in support of the ensuing student strike called by FSM. He collected the following documents (along with some later additions). When he later marched to Montgomery over the Edmund Pettus Bridge he proudly wore an FSM pin in solidarity with the Berkeley students.
Fall 64 Board of Regents University of California, unsigned. Undated (Fall, 1964) 12/64 FSM – On Kerr's Manipulations, unsigned FSM. Undated (probably November or December 1964) 12/4/64 STRIKE, flyer calling on students to strike, unsigned FSM. Undated (possibly December 4, 1964) 12/4/64 Instructions for Pickets, unsigned FSM & GCC. Undated (most likely December 4) 12/5?/64 Instructions for Pickets, unsigned. Undated (probably December 4 or 5) 12/5?/64 Map of picket lines (blue: location of picket lines, red: key buildings & locations). Bruce Hartford, CORE. December 4 or 5, 1964 12/5/64 Picket runner notes, Bruce Hartford, CORE. December 5, 1964 12/64 Graduate Coordinating Council Legal Info Sheet, re strike by graduate students employed by the university. Unsigned GCC. Undated (probably December 5-6, 1964) 12/64 Constitution of the Union of University-Employed Graduate Students, unsigned GCC. Undated (probably December 1964) 12/6/64 Resolution "B", resolution adopted by 200 faculty members for presentation to Academic Senate. December 6, 1964 12/7/64 Open Letter, to many recipients, Charlie (Brown) Artman. December 7, 1964 12/64 Propositions to Be Introduced by the Committee on Academic Freedom, at the December 8th Meeting of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, unsigned. Undated (early December 1964) 12/8?/64 Proposed? Resolutions, unsigned faculty members. December 8? 1964 12/9?/64 Statement to Regents opposing Academic Senate resolution supporting student free speech rights, unsigned (possibly a faculty member). Undated (probably December 9-10, 1964) 12/64 What Has the FSM Accomplished?, unsigned Executive Committee of University Students for Law and Order (unknown group). Undated (probably December 1964) 12/10/64 FSM Newsletter #5. December 10, 1964 (incorrectly printed as November) 12/13/64 Support appeal letter for FSM, Bay Area Friends of SNCC. December 13, 1964 12/64 Freedom of Speech Isn't Free flyer, unsigned Free Speech Defense Fund. Undated (after the December 3-4 mass arrests) 1965 The Berkeley Free Speech Controversy 25-page history, Eric Levine, Berkeley SDS. Undated 1965 1965 The Free Speech Movement and the Negro Revolution (52 page pamphlet), Mario Savio, Eugene Walker, Raya Dunayevskaya, Bob Moses. July 1965 The Free Speech Movement disbanded as an organization in 1965. But the issues it had raised continued: 12/67 Crisis Report: An Analyses of the Present Struggle at Berkeley, 16-page pamphlet. Committee of Graduate Students. Undated December 1967 12/67 Crisis Report Number Two, 8-page paper, Irwin Silber, Campus Stop the Draft Week and Movement Against Political Suspensions. December 1967
Free Speech Movement Archives
A Time for Choosing, Jo Freeman. Letter to Judge Crittenden explaining her participation in the December 3rd FSM sit-in. 1965.
The Berkeley Free Speech Movement by Jo Freeman, 2004.
From Freedom Now! to Free Speech: How the 1963-64 Bay Area Civil Rights Demonstrations Paved the Way to Campus Protest, by Jo Freeman. 1997.
The Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, by Jo Freeman. 2001.
Berkeley Free Speech Movement, by Karen Aichinger (First Amendment Encyclopedia), 2009.
Free Speech Movement, UCB Library, 2004.
FSM50: Visual History: Free Speech Movement, UCB Library, 2014.