About the Site
This website is a collective project, one which emerged from an honors undergraduate seminar in American Studies at UC-Berkeley, “The Bay Area in the Seventies,” taught by Scott Saul in the spring of 2017. The eleven students in that seminar shaped their own research projects, burrowing into archives official and unofficial so as to recover the stories missing from, or hidden within, standard accounts of Berkeley’s history. This curated archive—with 300 documents organized across their six main projects—is the result.
Beyond the 1960s: A History of Berkeley in the 1970s
This phrase “Berkeley in the Sixties” conjures a host of associations, many of them revolving around student activists in the Free Speech and antiwar movements. The phrase “Berkeley in the SEVENTIES” is less resonant, but the city in that decade was at the center of many large-scale transformations that were just as consequential in American culture and politics. 1970s Berkeley served as ground zero for the Black Arts and Black Power movements, Women’s Liberation, the movement for ethnic studies, the organic revolution, the gay rights movement, the Disability Rights Movement, and the free school movement. At the same time, the city was also the scene of countless smaller, more personal attempts to remake society from the ground up.
On this website we tell this story: of the rare city in the United States where the transformations of the 1960s continued to gain momentum in the 1970s. It’s not a simple tale. An openness to cultural and political experimentation; a hunger for personal authenticity, for a life lived fully, with oppressive social masks stripped off; and a commitment to redress longstanding inequities in American life: these three impulses pulled Berkeley in a number of directions in this period, producing dramatic results and often equally dramatic conflicts. The ideals of the 1960s were tested on the streets of Berkeley in the 1970s.
Both Sides Now: Towards a More Capacious Archive of Voices
A quick story to illustrate, in miniature, what this digital archive aspires to do. In the summer of 1970 a policeman raided a South Berkeley house where runaway youth had squatted. He found a letter that a young female runaway had written but never mailed to her mother in West Virginia. “I’m healthy and happy here,” the young woman enthused in her letter, “there is so much to do here….Everything is free—health clinic, food, clothes—so it’s quite easy to survive.”
For the decidedly non-radical Berkeley Gazette, the letter was Exhibit A for why Berkeley police needed to clamp down on runaways: these young people were a drain on public funds and were abusing the city’s hospitality.
But what of the young woman, Jodi Mitchell, who wrote the letter? If we look at her diary from a few months after the raid, we note that this same woman contemplated suicide and struggled to find a place she could call home; the self she projected in her letter home was not her only self. And if we read Mitchell’s reflections from forty years later, we see other layers to the story: how sleeping at a supposedly free “crash pad,” for instance,” often came with expectations about one’s sexual availability.
This rich dialogue between sources—a dialogue which dramatizes a range of perspectives, often from outside mainstream channels—is what “The Berkeley Revolution” aims to offer. The site allows you to delve into the primary materials we’ve curated and, we hope, to get a vivid sense of the lives out of which they emerge. There are a great number of “Berkeley revolutions” within “The Berkeley Revolution”; many, if not most, were incomplete or abbreviated, but their effects were far-reaching nonetheless.
The building of this website would not have been possible without the advice, cooperation, and generosity of many individuals and institutions. We would like to thank the following: Jim Baumohl, the Berkeley Public Library, William Bottini, Alex Cherian, the City of Berkeley, Tom Dalzell, Matt Delmont, Harvey Dong, the GLBT Historical Society, Jeremy Jachym, Sine Hwang Jensen at UC Berkeley’s Comparative Ethnic Studies Library, Michael J. Kramer, Scott Paul McGinnis, Martin Meeker, Doris Jo Moskowitz, Daniel Perlstein, Peter Richardson, the San Francisco Public Library, KPIX’s Tom Spitz, Susan Stryker, UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies Library, Tahira Warner with the Berkeley Mental Health Program, and Eddie Yuen.
We extend special thanks to Susan Brooks, Charles Brown, Nacio Jan Brown, Ms. Bob Davis, Rachel Marinos, Jodi Mitchell, Ed Perlstein, Odette Pollar, and Electra Price, whose contributions were crucial to the larger project. Lastly, we would like to thank the Digital Humanities at Berkeley, which provided funding for the site’s development.
Editor-publisher: Scott Saul
Writer-curators, “Rainbow Sign,” “Mary Ann Pollar”: Max Lopez and Tessa Rissacher
Writer-curators, “The Women and Girls of Telegraph Avenue”: Madeline Appel and Sally Littlefield
Writer-curators, “Berkeley’s Public Schools”: Linda Barghi, Scott Saul, and Kristen Wilson
Writer-curators, “The Third World Liberation Front”: Anthony Gilmore and Katrina Nham
Writer-curator, “The Keystone”: Matthew Willett
Writer-curators, “Transgender Berkeley”: Madeleine Calvi and Kashmir Kravitz
Website developer and designer: Kristin Jones
Graphic design contributor: Katrina Nham
Banner image from Romare Bearden, Berkeley: The City and Its People (1973), collage of various papers with paint, ink, and graphite on seven fiberboard panels, City of Berkeley, California, Public Art Collection.
Scott Saul is Professor of English at UC-Berkeley and author of Becoming Richard Pryor (HarperCollins, 2014), for which he also created a digital companion, “Richard Pryor’s Peoria,” similar in spirit to “The Berkeley Revolution”.
Questions or comments? Please write to Scott Saul at firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes your feedback.
We’ve made every effort on this non-commercial, educational website to abide by protocols of ‘fair use’. Please write to email@example.com if you have concerns about the materials made available on the site.