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The Free Speech Movement

Questions to Consider

Where did the Free Speech Movement start?

Who were the leaders of the movement?

What did they want?

About the Images

These images show UC Berkeley's Free Speech Movement as it happened. Photographs record the standoff and the aftermath.

Overview

The Free Speech Movement (FSM) was a college campus phenomenon inspired first by the struggle for civil rights and later fueled by opposition to the Vietnam War. The Free Speech Movement began in 1964, when students at the University of California, Berkeley protested a ban on on-campus political activities. The protest was led by several students, who also demanded their right to free speech and academic freedom. The FSM sparked an unprecedented wave of student activism and involvement.

Many images in this group make it clear that the center of the activity on the UC Berkeley campus was in Sproul Plaza. One photograph shows students occupying the balconies of Sproul Hall, a campus administration building, holding FSM banners and an American flag. Another photograph shows student leader Mario Savio leading a group of students through Sather Gate toward a meeting of the UC Regents.

In defiance of the ban on on-campus political activities, graduate student Jack Weinberg set up a table with political information and was arrested. But a group of approximately 3,000 students surrounded the police car in which he was held, preventing it from moving for 36 hours. Photographs show Weinberg in the car, both Mario Savio and Jack Weinberg on top of the surrounded car speaking to the crowd, and the car encircled by protesters and police.

Other photographs that portray key people and events of the Free Speech Movement include the eight students (including Mario Savio) suspended for operating a table on campus without a permit and raising money for unauthorized purposes; Mario Savio speaking to a crowd; students signing a pledge; and students sleeping on the steps of Sproul Plaza. Photographs of students being arrested, holding a mass sit-in, and picketing in support of the student-faculty strike as they protest demonstrators' arrests reflect other aspects of the Free Speech Movement.

Singer Joan Baez supported the FSM, and a photograph shows her singing to the demonstrators. Bettina Aptheker, who later became a professor of Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz, also supported the FSM. A photograph shows her speaking in front of Sproul Hall. Other photographs in this topic demonstrate that groups such as Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the International Workers of the World (IWW) showed solidarity and supported the FSM. Other images in this group include UC President Clark Kerr speaking at the UC Berkeley Greek Theater, and CORE co-founder James Farmer at a CORE rally.

Learn more, visit these UC Berkeley sites:
Free Speech Movement Digital Archives
Social Activism Sound Recording Project

California Content Standards

English-Language Arts

Grade 11:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.4 Write historical investigation reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver oral reports on historical investigations.
2.4 Delivery multimedia presentations.

History-Social Science

Grade 11:

11.10 Students analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights. (11.10.4)

Visual Arts

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts. Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Analysis Tools

6C's of Primary Source Analysis (PDF) (Source: UCI History Project)
Photographs (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)
Primary Source Activity (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)