UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement Oral History Project Released

Fifty years ago this week, the Berkeley campus of the University of California was rocked by the Free Speech Movement (FSM). The Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) has made available nearly 40 never-before seen interviews that recount the experiences of a cross section of participants in or witness to the events, including: student leaders and the lawyers who defended those disciplined and arrested; faculty who were in favor of and others who vehemently opposed FSM; ordinary students who as one freshman noted, were “trying to figure out what was going on. People were really caught by how important this was and trying to sort out the adult world response to it. You knew that this was a big deal.” Because of repeated massive demonstrations – 10,000 students surrounding a police car in the middle of Sproul Plaza; 800 people occupying the central administration building – Berkeley drew national attention. In the words of one interviewee, a journalist who covered the FSM for the nation- wide Collegiate Press News Service: “FSM opened up everything – just blew out the tubes of being able to move large amounts of information across the country. It wasn’t exactly that Berkeley was the first place where this mechanism kicked in [political protest] but it was the place where it went critical.”

The project website, along with interview transcripts and selected audio clips, is available here for all to access:

Project highlights:
Charles Powell, the ASUC Student Body President, never before interviewed about his struggle with the FSM as it was happening
Suzanne Goldberg, on the role of women in FSM and her struggles to overcome sexism among activists
Robert Scalapino, a distinguished scholar of China and Japan who opposed the tactics of the movement
Art Goldberg and Jackie Goldberg, siblings who came to Berkeley together, played key roles in the movement, and then went on to fight for social justice in law and politics