Summer Listening

The Oral History Center Director’s Column, June 2022

By Paul Burnett
Interim Director, Oral History Center

Closeup of butterfly perched on a plant, with Mount Diablo in the background
Save Mount Diablo BioBlitz (Photograph by Scott Hein)

For many of us, summer brings the promise of vacation, or at least time off with friends and family to rest, celebrate, or explore the great outdoors.

Whether spending time in parks fits into your summer plans or not, you owe it to yourself to check out the Oral History Center’s new project on the history of Save Mount Diablo, and especially the accompanying podcast. Shanna Farrell, Amanda Tewes, and student research apprentices Anjali George and Andrew Deakin did an amazing job of telling the story of fifty years of this important land conservation organization in the Bay Area and Northern California. The three episodes span key aspects of its history, which involved grassroots organizing; drawing on youthful energy and the expertise from older, larger environmental groups such as the Save the Redwoods League; management of invasive species; competition with developers for land; reintroduction of endangered species; the role of artists in the movement; and the potential fate of the area as the organization battles climate change.

For more interviews on the history of parks and environmental movements, check out the projects on the East Bay Regional Park District, natural resources, and the Sierra Club.

As you are listening to the podcast, we hope you’re lucky enough to get some time to visit some green space near you and appreciate the wonders all around us.

One of the things we’ve also been doing this summer is moving house to a brand new website. However, there are currently no automatic redirects from our old site, so please bookmark our new home page. It will take a while for this new site to come up in search engines, so that will be the best way to reach our great content for now. You can go directly to our blog here.

Luella Lilly at her desk, holding up a piece of paper
Dr. Luella Lilly, the Cal Women’s Athletics Director, 1976–1992

And as this summer and recent events turn our attention both to sports and women’s rights, one of our student editors William Cooke  has written a piece on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at schools that receive federal funds, and its impact on athletics at UC Berkeley. 

Stay tuned for our next newsletter in August!

Happy summer!

Paul

 


We’ve moved—at least our website has!

Dear Friends of the Oral History Center,

We’ve moved—at least our website has. 

We’re pleased to announce that the UC Library has created a new website for us as part of a massive Library website upgrade. New look, new URL, same great content. You’ll still be able to access all our interviews, our search feature, articles, collection guides, podcasts, and more. 

There are currently no automatic redirects, so please bookmark our new home page

Hard bound books on shelves
The OHC’s extensive archive comprises thousands of oral histories preserved in blue clothbound volumes. (Photo by Jami Smith)

Access our most recent articles from our home page, or go directly to our blog home. From our blog home, scroll through our articles, or at the search icon, enter your search term (name, keyword).

You may be seeing some updates to our website over the next few weeks and months, but will always be able to access our materials. If you haven’t done so already, please sign up for our monthly newsletter featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history.

Thank you very much for your ongoing support of the Oral History Center!

About the Oral History Center

The UC Berkeley Oral History Center has interviews on just about every topic imaginable. You can find all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. We preserve voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public. Sign up for our monthly newsletter featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access our most recent articles from our home page.


Title IX in Practice

How Title IX Affected Women’s Athletics at UC Berkeley and Beyond

By William Cooke

Title IX, a federal civil rights law passed in 1972 that amended the 1964 Civil Rights Act, prohibits discrimination based on sex at any educational institution that receives federal funding. While it pertains broadly to all forms of sex-based discrimination, the law arguably precipitated the most change in the arena of intercollegiate athletics. In any case, the passage of Title IX half of a century ago represents perhaps the single most significant event in the history of intercollegiate athletics in the United States, and was a major victory in the realm of civil rights for women.

The UC Berkeley Oral History Center houses a rich collection of interviews between oral historians and a diverse set of individuals that touch upon Title IX. In these interviews, influential figures across many different fields including intercollegiate sports, academia, and politics provide their insight into Title IX and its implementation over the course of the past fifty years. 

“Title IX was fantastic for women in politics. It has created a generation of risk takers, in the best of ways.” —Mary Hughes, political consultant

Here are just a handful of voices that mention the transformative 1972 law across a few of the Oral History Center’s many collections. 

Luella Lilly at her desk, holding up a piece of paper
Dr. Luella Lilly, the Cal Women’s Athletics Director, 1976–1992

In her oral history, Mary Hughes, a long-time Democratic political consultant who once served as the executive director of the California Democratic Party, recognizes the underappreciated role of Title IX and gender inclusion in sports in preparing women for positions of leadership in politics. 

I attribute a lot of their success to Title IX, and here’s why: Title IX was fantastic for women in politics, both those who have supported and strategized to get women into office, and the women who have run. There is a difference between the women who grew up playing sports from a very young age and the women who did not… Their ability to be competitive without an irrational fear of failure is one of the most freeing things I’ve ever seen. I love these young, competitive women, and I hope we hold on to this, because it has created a generation of risk takers, in the best of ways, in the best of ways.

As a result of Title IX’s passage at the start of the decade, Luella Lilly became the first director of Women’s Athletics at Cal in 1976. The promise of equal opportunity for women in collegiate sports did not — and still does not — mean that men’s and women’s sports were resourced equally. One of Lilly’s priorities as director was to establish scholarships for female athletes for the very first time. 

And so what I did was—they gave me—I think it’s $6,740 dollars, which was— tuition and fees were $670, I think they were, something like that. Anyway, it gave me ten tuition and fees at that point in time. So I gave them to each of the sports that could give scholarships, and had the coach divide it so that whatever way they wanted to. If they wanted to give somebody a full ride that was up to them, but if they wanted to split it among all— they could do anything they wanted to in their particular sport. But I just wanted to be able to mark the check that said we had them. 

Joan Parker
Joan Parker, Cal athlete, coach, and assistant and associate athletic director in the Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Department

Joan Parker, a former Cal women’s basketball, softball, volleyball and tennis coach as well as assistant and associate athletic director in the Women’s Athletic Department for 13 years, praises Lilly for championing women’s sports when it was underfunded and underappreciated in the decades following 1972. 

Lue came in, it was just—I was totally impressed with how she made things happen with so little money. It was just ridiculous when you compared our budgets to others… But Title IX definitely— and I think a lot of people didn’t understand it. A lot of outside— like our boosters and things like that, weren’t as aware of it. I think it was more of an internal pressure that at some point you’re going to be held accountable, and so you’d better start something in motion. 

But while revolutionary and long overdue, Title IX also had some adverse, unintended consequences that still trouble university athletic programs. 

Roberta Park was a supervisor of Physical Education at UC Berkeley until she stepped down after the passage of Title IX. She later served as the chair of the Department of Physical Education between 1982 and 1992. Park was a tireless champion of physical education programs and, in her oral history, makes it known that Title IX indirectly brought about a whole slew of repercussions for recreational sports programs that once benefited the entire student body. For one thing, elite athletes were prioritized over women’s widespread inclusion in sports.

I believed, and still believe, that colleges and universities (and high schools as well) should provide extracurricular sports programs for all interested women and girls, not just for the small number of the best athletes. Unfortunately, what evolved was an emphasis on the latter and an approach that gives the athletic program for a small number of the women athletes precedence over everything else… “We want to focus only on the women’s “varsity” basketball team, etc.” Well, if you put all of your efforts into a small number of the best athletes and you forget about all the others, what have you done? And that’s exactly what has happened. That’s exactly what has happened.

Roberta Park
Dr. Roberta Park, Chair of the Department of Physical Education, 1982–1992

Another repercussion of Title IX was the merging of Physical Education and Intercollegiate Athletics departments at major universities across the country. This meant that sports programs for women were subsumed into intercollegiate athletics programs, sometimes causing women to lose higher-level administrative positions to men. After the passage of Title IX, Park pushed for the creation of a separate department of intercollegiate sports for women at UC Berkeley, which she argued was crucial to protecting female representation in intercollegiate athletics administration. 

The emerging intercollegiate athletic sports for women, which used to be under the direction of Women’s Athletic Association or Women’s Recreation Association (which were directed by females, usually physical educators) were now all being moved over into Intercollegiate Athletics. With very, very few exceptions (in fact, I can think of none except at women’s colleges) all the Directors positions were taken over by men: And one of the things that I said was, “Well, okay, men have been doing this longer, and fair enough, but if Title IX is supposed to be about equity, what about the equity of women as the directors?”… So they finally decided, and I— I guess pushed is the right word, to the extent that I thought was appropriate, in the direction of a separate unit for women. 

Another issue that arose was in the way that equal opportunity was interpreted. Charles Young, the Chancellor of UCLA between 1968 and 1997, witnessed firsthand the evolution of Title IX’s implementation at a major Division I university from before its conception up until the late 1990s. Young found the policy of creating an equal number of men’s and women’s programs to be misguided and at times counterproductive. 

The principles of Title IX are fantastic but I think the major problem was that they took equivalence or took opportunity. Instead of opportunity they looked at the balance. And so you create a women’s sport to get in balance and there isn’t anybody who wants to play it. So then you have to go out and recruit people to come play it. Well, the principle should have been, are you providing as much opportunity for the women students as you are for the men. But it’s driven up the number of sports. It’s caused good sports to be eliminated at UCLA.

Former UC Berkeley Athletic Director John Kasser, who served as AD between 1993 and 2000, claims in his interview that Title IX was unfair to the supporters of Cal men’s sports who had to subsidize women’s sports in order to continue funding men’s sports at a competitive rate. 

But see, that’s the thing when we—I don’t blame—Title IX was absolutely right and has been wonderful for women’s athletics, but nobody ever came with a financial plan… And so they expected Men’s Athletics to raise the funds to support Women’s Athletics. And so when you talked about it—you couldn’t say, “Well, that’s not fair.” But it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair. 

One could argue that Title IX’s pitfalls speak more to the systemic issues that have prevented female student athletes from enjoying the same access to resources as men and not, as some might argue, to the failure of the law itself to protect “fairness.” The historical disadvantages of women in college sports made growing pains inevitable and even healthy for a field that has been dominated by men from the outset.

Now, fifty years after Title IX’s inception, these interviews help us recognize not only that progress is never perfect or steady, but also just how much progress has been made in the way of gender equality in intercollegiate sports thanks to the ongoing struggle of marginalized groups for the recognition of their civil rights. 

Find these and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. You can search by name, keyword, and several other criteria.

William Cooke is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in Political Science and minoring in History. In addition to working as a student editor for the Oral History Center, he is a reporter in the Sports department at UC Berkeley’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Californian

About Title IX

Title IX of the Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law on June 23, 1972, by President Richard M. Nixon: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Related Resources from The Bancroft Library

The Bancroft Library has hundreds of materials related to athletics in California and beyond. Here are just a few. 

See the Oral History Center’s (OHC) project, “Management of Intercollegiate Athletics at UC Berkeley: 1960–2014” which includes more than forty interviews with chancellors, athletic directors, faculty members, donors, and others involved in athletics at Berkeley. See also OHC’s “Education and University of California — Individual Interviews” featuring more than 150 faculty, senior administrators, and staff.

University of California, Berkeley. Department of Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics records, 1976-1993. UC Archives (NRLF) CU-566

A celebration of excellence : 25 years of Cal women’s athletics. UC Archives Folio 308m.p415.c.2001

Title IX self study, University of California, Berkeley, approximately 1977. UC Archives (NRLF) CU-509

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library has interviews on just about every topic imaginable. You can find the interviews mentioned here and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. We preserve voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access the most recent articles from our home page.


Beyond Democracy as Mechanism: Director’s Column, Oral History Center

By Paul Burnett
Interim Director, Oral History Center

There has long been a tendency to describe democratic institutions as industrial machines: Congress as the engine of democracy; American industry, military power, or institutions associated with international development as the arsenal of democracy; California’s Master Plan for higher education as a democratic conveyor belt of educational opportunity; and even UC Berkeley student activist Mario Savio’s call to lay down protestors’ bodies upon the gears of the machine of the university. In our newsletter this month, we are exploring how human beings have engaged with the problem of democracy as mechanism. 

Gears

Todd Holmes’ new, massive project on the history of Chicana/o Studies features the voices of scholars and activists who helped redefine the university as a democratic institution: the student body, the composition of the faculty, the nature and function of the university, and even what counts as formal academic knowledge and practice. He writes of the Chicana/o movement’s own “El Plan” to answer UC President Clark Kerr’s Master Plan for higher education and their efforts to make a more human, representative, and just university.

For the Getty Trust’s African American Art History Initiative, Amanda Tewes interviewed artist and educator Richard Mayhew, who spoke of his experience with the founding of Spiral in the 1960s, an African American artists organization in which members explored connections between their art and the Civil Rights movement of the time. She also interviewed Merritt Price, longtime head of the Design Department for the Getty Trust. Tapping into her public history expertise, Tewes explores the construction and redesign of the Getty Center and the Getty Villa around the experience and needs of the visiting public.  

UC Berkeley undergraduate Shannon White taps into our current anxieties about nuclear escalation (speaking of institutions as mechanism) by exploring oral histories that deal with the plans and negotiations around nuclear disarmament during the Cold War. In this case, too, though we are accustomed to thinking about nuclear strategy in mechanical, theoretical terms, we learn how individuals and groups struggled with the threat of annihilation in human terms.  

Ultimately, we can see that the mechanical metaphor for democracy itself functions poorly. Mechanism connotes automation, strict, narrow paths of navigation, and the regulated transfer of effort. Democratic institutions function to the extent that they do by being open, porous, flexible, accretive, experimental, and planned to maximize the spontaneity and chance discoveries of their participants.   

In partial service to this end, the Oral History Center is hosting the symposium “Assessing the Role of Race and Power in Oral History Theory and Practice” on Zoom from June 27–29, 2022.  This follows the efforts of a number of members of the oral history community to think through challenges of inclusion and justice in our work.

Finally, enrollment in our Oral History Summer Institute for August 2022 is full and closed, though we look forward to offering more educational offerings in 2023! 

Sign up for our monthly newsletter featuring think pieces, new releases, podcasts, Q&As, and everything oral history. Access this month’s articles from our home page.


“Let Us Not Be Deceived:” Recalling the 75th Anniversary of the Cold War

By Shannon White

This month marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the term “Cold War” being used to describe the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. On April 16, 1947, Bernard Baruch gave a speech in the South Carolina House of Representatives, telling his audience, “Let us not be deceived—we are today in the midst of a cold war.”

Baruch, a financier and presidential advisor during the Wilson, Roosevelt, and Truman administrations, was privy to the international tensions surrounding nuclear arms as a representative to the United Nations (UN) Atomic Energy Commission. 

Bernard Baruch
Bernard Baruch (Courtesy of CalTech Archives via Calisphere)

The UC Berkeley Oral History Center (OHC) has several interviews related to Bernard Baruch and the Cold War, including oral histories from Philip Read Bradley Jr., a mining engineer and family friend of Baruch; Charles Easton Rothwell, a State Department employee who contributed to the founding of the UN; and Roger Randall Dougan Revelle, a scientist and the former director of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Rothwell and Revelle in particular are concerned with discussing the Cold War in general, including issues related to international relations and atomic energy regulation and testing.  

In his interview Philip Read Bradley Jr.: A Mining Engineer in Alaska, Canada, the Western United States, Latin American, and Southeast Asia, Bradley says of Baruch’s character:

Afterwards I saw a good deal of Baruch, and came to enjoy him, and admire him very, very much. I was talking to him one day, and he said: “Back in my time, when things were good, I could look at the economy and make a prediction that I regarded as reliable, about what would happen next, or in a few years, and I could act on that. And that made me a good deal of money.” He said, “It makes a little difference who’s in the White House.” And I said, ‘What do you think of Truman?’ And he said, ‘He’s a nincompoop.” He says, “We’ve got a nincompoop in the White House now.” But anyhow, Baruch had lots of rules; my dad used to quote them. One of the rules was, “No use doing business unless it’s good business.”

Roger Revelle
Roger Revelle (Courtesy of Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego, via Calisphere)

In the first of his four interviews (Roger Randall Dougan Revelle: Oceanography, Population Resources and the World, Volume 1: Preparation for a Scientific Career), Revelle discusses the early nuclear arms race, including fears about the control of nuclear weapons. Bernard Baruch himself was instrumental in the creation of the Baruch Plan, a proposal by the US government for decommissioning nuclear weapons and internationalizing and regulating atomic energy. Revelle mentions the Baruch Plan, and the related Acheson-Lilienthal Report on international control of nuclear weaponry, in his discussion of early nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll:

“The Russians didn’t have any atomic bombs at that time, and there were some people out at Bikini, Admiral Solberg was one, who suggested that— [brief discussion about a whale visible off the coast] —that we should tell the Russians that we would use our atomic weapons against them if they developed them. That we ought to decide right now to abolish the things on both sides. There was one famous Baruch plan, Bernard Baruch and [David E. ] Lilienthal, I guess, who was by that time the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, which had tried to reach an agreement with the Russians about atomic weapons, to not develop them, not have them. But this never got anywhere.”

When asked about the UN Atomic Energy Commission, of which Baruch was a part, Charles Rothwell said in his oral history Charles Easton Rothwell: From Mines to Minds, “I was aware of some of the problems. And I got to know Bernie Baruch, because I had to staff his operations too.”

Rothwell describes Baruch as dedicated to his work, claiming that, “He was very serious about wanting controls placed on the development of the capacity to produce nuclear weapons, and would have preferred that it not even stretch nearly as far as it did in Europe. We’re the real culprits in the use of nuclear energy for war purposes because we did it.”

The mentions of Bernard Baruch in the Oral History Center are quite interesting to look back on as a marker of such an important period of world history. In particular, Rothwell’s and Revelle’s interviews discuss not just Baruch’s involvement in the quest for nuclear regulation, but the general climate of the United States and the UN in the period following World War II. 

Shannon White
Shannon White

You can find the interviews mentioned here and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria.

Shannon White is currently a third-year student at UC Berkeley studying Ancient Greek and Latin. They are an undergraduate research apprentice in the Nemea Center under Professor Kim Shelton and a member of the editing staff for the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal of Classics. Shannon works as a student editor for the Oral History Center.

Related Resources from the OHC and The Bancroft Library

The Bancroft Library contains hundreds of materials related to the Cold War, including illustrations, interviews, books, and speeches. For some items in the collection related to Bernard Baruch specifically, see:

Baruch, Bernard M., Freedom for Man: – a world safer for mankind. An address delivered … at a meeting held at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, May 25, 1955. Bancroft Pamphlet
p E767.1.B3.

Baruch, Bernard M., The making of the reparation and economic sections of the Treaty. Bancroft (NRLF) D648 .B3

The Oral History Center also has many interviews that discuss the Cold War, including several from the Free Speech Movement Oral History Project, the Oakland Army Base Oral History Project, and the Rosie the Riveter World War II American Home Front Oral History Project. From our home page, go to “Oral Histories” > “Projects.” For a look through some of the oral histories concerning the Nixon administration, check out “The Week that Changed the World: Nixon Visits China,” by Shannon White. See also, “‘I take this obligation freely:’ Recalling UC Berkeley’s loyalty oath,” by Shannon White with research by Adam Hagen.  

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library has interviews on just about every topic imaginable. You can find the interviews mentioned here and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. We preserve voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public.


“I take this obligation freely:” Recalling UC Berkeley’s loyalty oath controversy

By Shannon White, with research by Adam Hagen

Loyalty oaths have long been in use in the United States as a means of promoting social unity in the face of war, perceived security threats, or fears about waning political support. Even now, loyalty oaths are common as a condition of employment for many state workers. In fact, all employees of the state of California, including the faculty and staff members of the University of California, currently sign an oath of loyalty upon hire, stating that they will defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that they take this obligation freely.

In particular, the idea of a governmental loyalty oath rose to prominence in the 1940s, when tensions between the US and the Soviet Union and growing fears about a communist infiltration of the government prompted President Harry S. Truman to establish a loyalty program for federal employees. In March 1947, Truman signed Executive Order 9835, which ensured that employees of the US government could be subject to investigation for potential involvement in “subversive” organizations. 

 Man wearing shirt that says “Regents” creates wrist shackles labeled “Faculty Loyalty Oath.”In the wake of President Truman’s Executive Order, the California state legislature began to introduce its own policies in opposition to potential communist activity in the government. These proposals would have given the state authority over the University of California in matters of loyalty, prompting the University of California administration to act in response to prevent infringement on the institution’s autonomy. Furthermore, the university was at this time also facing financial difficulties, with the state threatening to withhold funding for the university budget due to worries about subversive activity within its community. As a result of these mounting pressures, University President Robert G. Sproul proposed his own loyalty oath for university faculty and employees on March 25, 1949. The text of the oath approved by the Regents on June 24 was as follows:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of my office according to the best of my ability; that I do not believe in, and I am not a member of, nor do I support any party or organization that believes in, advocates, or teaches the overthrow of the United States Government, by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional means, that I am not a member of the Communist Party or under any oath or a party to any agreement or under any commitment that is in conflict with my obligations under this oath. 

Almost immediately, the introduction of the loyalty oath garnered controversy. Many faculty members and staff refused to sign the oath, resulting in a rash of firings and resignations and a tense stand-off between the Board of Regents and university faculty, staff, and students. The oath was later declared unconstitutional in 1951 in Tolman v. Underhill, and many of the thirty-one dismissed faculty returned to Berkeley. 

Crowded meeting room with some spectators looking through the door.
University of California Regents’ Meeting about Loyalty Oath Non-signers,
1950 August 25, BANC PIC 1959.010. San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Newspaper Photograph Archive, The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

The UC Berkeley Oral History Center has several interviews related to the loyalty oath controversy, many from UC faculty members who witnessed or were themselves involved in the response to the oath’s introduction. 

Among these is a collection of interviews specifically concerning the loyalty oath, which features oral histories from Howard Bern, a UC Berkeley faculty member who signed the oath last-minute; Ralph Giesey, a graduate student of non-signer Ernst Kantorowicz; and Deborah Tolman Whitney and Mary Tolman Kent, the children of Berkeley professor Edward Tolman, a key leader of the faculty opposition to the oath. 

These interviews reveal the fraught relationship between university faculty and administration after the instatement of the loyalty oath, with rampant fears about academic freedom and discrimination against potentially “subversive” faculty members. Here, Howard Bern shares his distaste of the oath and his moral grounds for originally refusing to sign:

I felt that it was discriminatory, that it was singling out university professors as if they were especially potentially evil. So on a civil libertarian ground I objected to this. And the second ground was my own feeling. I had been in the army for almost four years. What more manifestation of loyalty did they really want? 

In the oral history of Charles Muscatine, who returned to UC Berkeley in 1953 after being fired for his refusal to sign the oath as an assistant professor, Muscatine recalls the most poignant moment for him of the entire controversy: 

At a certain moment, [Malcolm Davisson, a faculty policy chair] contacted me. He said, “We have lost the moral right to decide.” 

Other interviews offer more insight into the experience of witnessing the loyalty oath controversy firsthand. For instance, Ralph Giesey discusses the hearings he and his fellow non-signing teaching assistants had to undergo as a condition of their opposition to the oath. Howard Schachman, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley at the time of the oath, describes the moral compromise he underwent when he signed something he considered philosophically “abhorrent.” 

Clark Kerr and Gordon Sproul seated at table looking at camera
Chancellor Clark Kerr (left) and Robert Gordon Sproul, November 16, 1953

The loyalty oath controversy at UC Berkeley is often viewed through the perspective of academic freedom amid anticommunist fervor, but an oral history of Clark Kerr, UC Berkeley faculty member at the time — and later campus chancellor and university president — provides another perspective. Kerr observed that the controversy must be viewed in light of the internal divisions in the Board of Regents that escalated in the 1940s over debates about centralization versus campus autonomy. According to Kerr, Regent John Francis Neylan and the southern regents tended to favor campus autonomy, while University President Robert G. Sproul and most of the northern regents called for a centralized system. This issue resolved itself with the creation of the post of chancellor for each UC campus, and Kerr himself was later appointed to the position at UC Berkeley in 1952.

According to Kerr:

As I understand it, Neylan really just seized on the oath controversy as a way of whipping Sproul around because he was unhappy with him on other grounds. . . . [Sproul] looked to me like a man who was just immobilized by the controversy. It was out of this, according to what I observed, that [Earl] Warren then came to take a position of leadership, which he had not taken in the regents before. Normally governors don’t. But the controversy was tearing the university apart. The president was immobilized. Warren stepped in, then, essentially against the oath, or at least against the firing of the non-signers, and took leadership of the more liberal elements of the board.

Howard Bern also recognizes Robert Sproul’s role in mishandling the loyalty oath controversy, stating, “Just as, although he would not admit it, the Free Speech Movement really broke Clark Kerr, I think the loyalty oath situation just destroyed Robert Gordon Sproul and his influence. I don’t think he was a bad man, a bad leader, but I think he made a very fatal error.”

All in all, these oral histories concerning the UC loyalty oath controversy are a great resource for understanding the climate at the University of California in the 1940s and ’50s. They offer a wealth of insight concerning the faculty experience at UC Berkeley, and since many of the interviewees went on to become involved with the Free Speech Movement and other political causes, there is a particular focus in these oral histories on the growth of social movements at the university. For more information about the loyalty oath controversy, check out the Oral History Center’s collection of interviews concerning the oath and other related resources from The Bancroft Library.

Shannon White is currently a third-year student at UC Berkeley studying Ancient Greek and Latin. They are an undergraduate research apprentice in the Nemea Center under Professor Kim Shelton and a member of the editing staff for the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal of Classics. Shannon works as a student editor for the Oral History Center.

Adam Hagen is currently a third-year history student with a concentration in modern European history. Adam works as a student editor for the Oral History Center. He is also a member of the editing staff of Clio’s Scroll, the Berkeley Undergraduate History Journal.

Related Resources from the OHC and The Bancroft Library

Oral Histories Cited

Clark Kerr, University of California Crises: Loyalty Oath and the Free Speech Movement.

The Loyalty Oath at the University of California, 1949–1952. Interviews with Howard Bern, Ralph Giesey, Mary Tolman Kent, Deborah Tolman Whitney.

Howard Schachman: UC Berkeley Professor of Molecular Biology: On the Loyalty Oath Controversy, The Free Speech Movement, and Freedom in Scientific Research.

Charles Muscatine: The Loyalty Oath, The Free Speech Movement, and Education Reforms at the University of California, Berkeley.

Related Oral History Projects

The SLATE Oral History Project documents the UC Berkeley campus political organization SLATE — so named because the group backed a slate of candidates who ran on a common platform for ASUC (Associated Students of the University of California) elections from 1958 to 1966. SLATE ignited a passion for politics in the face of looming McCarthyism and what many perceived as the University of California’s encroachment on student rights to free speech. See also, “They Got Woken Up”: SLATE and Women’s Activism at UC Berkeley

The Free Speech Movement Oral History Project documents the movement at UC Berkeley that began in the fall of 1964 from the perspective of the ordinary people who made it possible — and those who opposed it — including students, lawyers, faculty, and staff.

Related Resources from The Bancroft Library

Gardner, David Pierpont. The California oath controversy. F870.E3C4122.G3.

Kantorowicz, Ernst H. The fundamental issue : documents and marginal notes on the University of California loyalty oath. Bancroft F870.E3 K18.

Papers pertaining to California loyalty oaths, 1954. Bancroft BANC MSS C-Z 92.

University of California, Berkeley Accounting Office loyalty oath records, 1949–1964. UC Archives CU-3.11.

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library has interviews on just about every topic imaginable. You can find the interviews mentioned here and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. We preserve voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public.

 


On the Waterfront: Oral Histories from Richmond, California

By Shannon White

The On the Waterfront oral history project is a collection of interviews from residents of Richmond, California conducted by the UC Berkeley Oral History Center in the 1980s. These oral histories span decades, offering an interesting glimpse into the history of the Bay Area in the early- to mid-twentieth century. This collection features interviews from shipyard workers, cannery employees, fishermen, and early residents of Richmond, many of whom have resided in the area for decades and have witnessed firsthand the city’s evolution over the better part of a century. 

These interviews devote a great deal of time to talking about the development of the city as a result of World War II. Common themes throughout the On the Waterfront project as a whole include labor practices, race relations and discrimination, and industrial growth and urban development in the Bay Area.

Crowd of workers exiting the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards.
Title: Workers (general photos). Identifier 35. From the Henry J. Kaiser Pictorial Collection, The Bancroft Library. Available on the Online Archive of California.

During the 1940s, Richmond experienced a massive influx of workers, many of whom arrived from the southern United States as part of the Great Migration, seeking wartime employment at local businesses or the Kaiser Shipyards. “I thought it was in the neighborhood of eighteen to twenty thousand. By the time Kaiser came in and all the shipyards moved in there, we were over a hundred thousand,” Joseph Perrelli, whose family founded the Filice and Perrelli Canning Company, says of the rapid population and industrial growth in Richmond as a result of wartime industry.

Tomato package label
F & P Brand Solid Pack Tomatoes label, 1929. Courtesy of the History San Jose Research Library, via Calisphere. Identifier: F144A3D6-2ADB-4D06-9E10-193468533590
1985-95-34.

In his interview, Perrelli describes the history of the Filice and Perrelli Canning Company, which began in 1913 as a small family business and grew exponentially during the war. 

They would ask us to bid on their needs to feed the army as far as tomatoes and fruit was concerned. We were competitive. We had to bid against each other. We bid against our fellow canners. But the percentage that the military allowed us was much greater than we could get in competition with our fellow canners. Naturally we made some money on the sales that we made to the government, to the military.

The increased need for labor during the war meant that job opportunities opened up en masse for women and people of color, many of whose testimonies were put on record by the Oral History Center. Here, Lucille Preston describes her experience working as a welder in Richmond during World War II: 

We would have to punch the time clock at eleven-thirty. I would leave home around eleven-fifteen. . . .Then we would have to go and get our own welding lines. I’m sure you don’t know what that is, but it looks just like a water hose, these welding lines. I would have to have two, one on one shoulder and one on the other, and I would have to climb up a ladder or go down in a hold on a ladder and carry those on my shoulders.

Preston looks back on the hands-on work she performed as a positive experience, recalling, “We would have to go out in the water on the ship. The ship was floating while we were on there welding. So it was really fun. I really enjoyed it.”

Two women and one man standing in front of a table with arms around each other, looking into camera.
Mollie Bowie, son Marvin Foster, Selena Foster, Richmond, 1947, following Mrs. Bowie’s move to Richmond

At the same time though, Selena Foster, the owner of the Oakland-based restaurant Selena’s Kitchen and an employee of Lou’s Defense Diner during World War II, discusses hiring discrimination for black women looking for shipyard work, saying: 

There were blacks out there but mostly the white girls were the ones who got all the training. They all had to wear the same welding suits because this was a training outfit. So they would just try them for so many minutes, and then they would try the other. We tried the whole day to get fitted. Other girls kept coming, white girls. Alma was kind of chubby but she wasn’t fat and at that time I only weighed about a hundred and ten, and it seems that we were too big. This was just prejudice.

Marguerite Williams, a long-time Bay Area resident, also recalls an almost instantaneous increase in racialized violence and discrimination in conjunction with the growing black population in the Bay Area:

It seemed like overnight people on the street would be fighting with knives and everything. . . . When we first came to Richmond in 1946, [Harry Williams] and I and the kids, there was still a lot of that bad feeling, because you would go into the store downtown and the people wouldn’t want to wait on you. 

Harry Williams, whose mother worked for the Filice and Perrelli Canning Company in the 1930s, discusses the lack of cannery employment for people of color in the decades following: “I don’t think they hired any blacks that I know of. If they did, they had menial work. They weren’t working on the line.”

Wartime industry in Richmond brought both economic success and population growth to the city, but at the same time brought with it a myriad of issues with racial discrimination and exploitative labor practices. For example, Joseph Perrelli discusses early anti-union sentiment in the canning industry, which led to protests and strikes among the Filice and Perrelli labor force, something Perrelli recalls as “labor activity that was inamicable to our interests at that time.”

Aside from these wartime industries, many other enterprises saw wild success in Richmond over the years, including several fishing and whaling operations. 

Pratt Peterson, a lifetime fisherman and former employee of the Richmond Whaling Station, talks about the Bay Area whaling industry over the decades. Here, Peterson discusses the early days of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf:

That was a long time ago. You talk about San Francisco being a different town. When I was fishing shark, I lived on a boat at Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf wasn’t what it is now. There were a lot of vacant lots. 

When discussing the current state of the Richmond Whaling Station, which closed in the early 1970s, Peterson recalls, “The slip is still there where they pulled them up, and some of the winches are still there. A lot of the equipment to cut the whale up is still there. Of course, it’s all rusted out now, but they haven’t moved it out.” 

Dominic Ghio, a lifetime commercial fisherman, describes his family’s experience fishing and shrimping in the Bay Area for almost a century. Regarding his and his siblings’ work, Ghio says:

It was in San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay. We used to commute. We would park our boats in Richmond. That was in the 1930s. And we slept on the boat five days a week. Then, from Richmond we used to go commute home and get changed, take a bath and do what we had to do. Then on Sunday evening in the afternoon we’ll go back and do it all over again. Three hundred and sixty-five days of the year all around. 

The stories in these oral histories span the better part of a century of Richmond’s history and include the interviewees’ perspectives on issues that are still very much relevant to the Bay Area of the twenty-first century. 

Stanley Nystrom, a longtime resident of the city, discusses the widespread “drug panic” of the 1980s, noting that though these issues affected Richmond, they were not exclusive to the Bay Area: 

Now it’s nationwide and worldwide. It has affected the economy, it has affected the crime, it’s affected people in such drastic ways. So you can’t really relate that to Richmond alone. It’s all over everywhere.

Lewis Van Hook plays guitar
Lewis Van Hook, 1991. Photograph by Judith K. Dunning.

Lewis Van Hook, a member of the Singing Shipbuilders gospel quartet during World War II, gives his thoughts on life in Richmond over the years, mentioning the city’s experience with police brutality at the time of the interview in the early 1980s and the 1983 NAACP lawsuit against the City of Richmond in response to police behavior: 

I think it’s still a good place to live, but I would say, in some ways, there’s lots of room for improvement. This problem that they’ve been having now with the police has been kind of disgusting. I think there needs to be some improvements both ways. . . .These lawsuits that they’ve been having—I don’t know, I think of it and think of both sides of it. I know you have some brutality on the police’s side. We’ve had some all right.

The interviews of this oral history project are vibrant and interesting, providing a wealth of information about life in the Bay Area during a time of massive population growth, industrial evolution, and urban development. The narrators for this project have unique perspectives on the changes that Richmond has experienced over the years, and many also share their hopes for the city’s future as well. 

Shannon White
Shannon White

You can find the interviews mentioned here and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria.

Shannon White is currently a third-year student at UC Berkeley studying Ancient Greek and Latin. They are an undergraduate research apprentice in the Nemea Center under Professor Kim Shelton and a member of the editing staff for the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal of Classics. Shannon works as a student editor for the Oral History Center.

Related Resources from the OHC and The Bancroft Library

In addition to the On the Waterfront project, the Oral History Center has several other projects about the history of California. The Rosie the Riveter World War II American Home Front Oral History Project in particular contains many interviews concerning the Bay Area in the mid-twentieth century. For an overview of some of the oral histories contained in this collection, check out the article, “Bury the Phonograph: Oral Histories Preserve Records of Life in Hawaii During World War II” by Shannon White. For an article about Richmond residents’ memories of Juneteenth, see “Learn about Juneteenth through Oral History” by Jill Schlessinger.

Photographs of Selena Foster and family, accompanying her oral history interview. Bancroft BANC PIC 1993.050–PIC.

Richmond Shipyard photographs. Bancroft BANC PIC 1983.010-.019–PIC.

Henry J. Kaiser pictorial collection: Approximately 150,000 items (photographic prints, negatives, and albums). Bancroft BANC PIC 1983.001-.075–PIC and other locations. See especially Richmond Shipyard workers. 

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library has interviews on just about every topic imaginable. You can find the interviews mentioned here and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria. We preserve voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public.


Announcing the Oral History Center’s Interim Director: Paul Burnett

Congratulations to Paul Burnett!

Paul Burnett
Paul Burnett in Budapest, Hungary, 2019

We are pleased to announce that historian Paul Burnett has been named the interim director of the Oral History Center upon the retirement of Martin Meeker last month. Paul joined the OHC staff in 2013 and has been a versatile historian with a focus on science, engineering, and UC Berkeley history. He has published a number of academic articles, and has developed and directed several large-scale oral history projects: on economics, paleontology, Czech physics, the San Francisco Opera, and engineering, among other subjects. Paul has also worked to reach a wider public with a series of blog posts, a curriculum for high schools on epidemics in history, and podcasts on the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the contribution of UC Berkeley to the rise of Silicon Valley.

Prior to joining the Oral History Center, Paul was an assistant professor with the Science and Technology Studies Programme at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada. Before that, Paul researched and produced museum exhibits for the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. He completed his PhD at the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania in 2008, where he developed his research on the politics of expertise — how scientists and experts of all kinds establish their credibility, and how people choose between different kinds of expertise to try to solve complex social, political, scientific, and technical problems.

Please join us in welcoming Paul Burnett to his new role.

Read Martin Meeker’s retirement announcement


The Week that Changed the World: Nixon Visits China

By Shannon White

February 2022 — This month marks the 50th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s weeklong visit to China, a trip that resulted in the establishment of a formal diplomatic relationship between the governments of the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

The UC Berkeley Oral History Center’s collection contains several interviews discussing the event, as well as the political and public atmosphere that surrounded Nixon’s 1971 announcement of the impending trip. Included in these are the accounts of both Caroline and John Service, the latter a diplomat and member of the United States Foreign Service. The Services were among the few Americans welcomed back to the country in the early 1970s by Zhou Enlai, then the premier of the PRC.  

Nixon and Mao shake hands
President Nixon Shaking Hands with Chairman Mao, February 21, 1972 (Photo: National Archives. National Archives Identifier 194759.)

In Caroline Service’s oral history, she discusses the era of “ping pong diplomacy” in the early 1970s that occurred prior to the president’s visit to China. “We were all electrified one day. . . by seeing on television, reading in the paper, seeing pictures that the American ping pong team was going to Peking,” Service recalls of this turning point in the relations between the two countries. 

In this interview, Service also discusses the public perception of Richard Nixon at the time of the trip, echoing the popular opinion that only Nixon, as a staunch anti-communist with the support of his fellow political conservatives, could make such a move without widespread criticism. As Service says:

Now I have hardly a good word to say for Nixon. I have disliked him intensely forever, it seems to me, since ever he appeared on the political scene. Yet, I suppose that only a Republican conservative, reactionary almost, president could have done this. I do not think a Democrat could have done this. I think it had to be done.

In his oral history, Dr. Otto C. C. Lin, whose career is in Chinese technological innovation and entrepreneurship, offers his perspective on Henry Kissinger and Nixon traveling to China. When asked about the effects of the visit on Taiwan, Lin said, “Republicans were always considered friends for KMT [Kuomintang]. Hence, Nixon was considered a turncoat and Kissinger an accomplice of Nixon in betraying his friend, the ROC [Republic of China].” Ultimately, though, Lin says, “I think history would say that Nixon and Kissinger did the right thing to help open up China.” 

Cecilia Chiang, a chef and entrepreneur credited with popularizing northern Chinese cuisine in the United States, discusses in her oral history the buzz surrounding the state dinner attended by Nixon and Kissinger during their visit. “The menu was printed in all these newspapers in the United States and also the Chinese Newspaper,” recalls Chiang, “People called in. Called in from New York, from Hawaii, called me. ‘Can you duplicate that dinner? That dinner for us. We would like to just fly in just for that dinner.’”

Chiang remembers her surprise at the simplicity of the meal, stating that when she saw the menu, “I started to laugh. They said, ‘Why do you laugh?’ They put bean sprouts on the menu, because China is so poor at the time. No food, no nothing.” 

These interviews contain a wealth of insightful information concerning not just the presidential visit to China, but also the general political climate of US foreign relations in the 1970s. Caroline Service offers the perspective of a family who had by this point been involved in US foreign diplomacy for decades. Otto Lin leverages the Nixon visit in relation to the modern political, cultural, and economic landscape of China. Cecilia Chiang’s oral history provides a glimpse into the culinary landscape of China, a country still struggling with rationing and food shortages in the midst of the Cultural Revolution. 

Shannon White
Shannon White

You can find the interviews mentioned here and all our oral histories from the search feature on our home page. Search by name, keyword, and several other criteria.

Shannon White is currently a third-year student at UC Berkeley studying Ancient Greek and Latin. They are an undergraduate research apprentice in the Nemea Center under Professor Kim Shelton and a member of the editing staff for the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal of Classics. Shannon works as a student editor for the Oral History Center.

 

About the Oral History Center

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library has interviews on just about every topic imaginable. We preserve voices of people from all walks of life, with varying political perspectives, national origins, and ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to open access and our oral histories and interpretive materials are available online at no cost to scholars and the public.

Oral Histories Used Here

Caroline Service: State Dept. Duty in China, The McCarthy Era, and After 1933–1977

Otto C.C. Lin: Promoting Education, Innovation, and Chinese Culture in the Era of Globalization Volume I: Oral History

Cecilia Chiang: An Oral History

Related Resources from The Bancroft Library

Cecilia Chiang is included in the Chez Panisse, Inc. pictorial collection. BANC PIC 2001.192.

Caroline Service letters to Lisa Green : TLS and ALS, 1950 Sept.–1995 April. Bancroft BANC MSS 99/81 cz.

Caroline Schulz Service papers, 1919–1997. Bancroft BANC MSS 99/237 cz.

John S. Service papers, 1925–1999. BANC MSS 87/21 cz.

 


Martin Meeker retires from the Oral History Center

We would like to congratulate Martin Meeker on his retirement as the director of the Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library. As Martin put it, when you spend so much of your time listening to the stories of other people’s triumphs and challenges, at some point you want to focus on creating your own story. 

man and dog
Martin with Daisy at Dillon Beach

Martin has achieved much during his time at Bancroft. He started his career here as an interviewer/historian in 2004, after graduating with a PhD in history from the University of Southern California. Martin published Contacts Desired: Gay and Lesbian Communications and Community, 1940s-1970s in 2006 with University of Chicago Press; The Oakland Army Base: An Oral History, an anthology of fifty interviews; along with a number of articles over the years. He served as acting associate director of the Center from 2012 to 2016 and became its director in 2016.

From the early 2010s, Martin built up the program, hiring four full-time interviewer historians and a communications director, managing and initiating large endeavors such the Freedom to Marry Project, and facilitating longstanding partnerships with the Getty Trust, the East Bay Regional Park District, and the National Park Service, to name just a few. Under Martin’s leadership, the OHC has continued and expanded its education outreach and public profile. An expert interviewer, Martin conducted interviews with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Governor Jerry Brown, along with many artists, financial experts, and vintners, to hint at the range of his interviewing.

Book cover, drawing of men in coats Lisa Rubens, retired oral historian and longtime OHC interviewer, reflected on Martin’s appointment: “I worked closely with Martin after he joined our staff in 2003. He was a breath of fresh air — his scholarship, collegiality, and interviewing skills were immediately obvious. Once becoming director he created an environment which supported our staff in interviewing people in all walks of life, sustaining OHC’s deserved reputation as the nation’s leading academic oral history program.” 

We thank Martin for his contributions to the growth and health of the Oral History Center, and we wish him the best in writing this next chapter of his own story. 

An announcement about the interim director and director search will be made in our next newsletter.