At Berkeley in the Sixties: The Making of an Activist

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9780253216229: At Berkeley in the Sixties: The Making of an Activist

This book is a memoir and a history of Berkeley in the early Sixties. As a young undergraduate, Jo Freeman was a key participant in the growth of social activism at the University of California, Berkeley. The story is told with the "you are there" immediacy of Freeman the undergraduate but is put into historical and political context by Freeman the scholar, 35 years later. It draws heavily on documents created at the time―letters, reports, interviews, memos, newspaper stories, FBI files―but is fleshed out with retrospective analysis. As events unfold, the campus conflicts of the Sixties take on a completely different cast, one that may surprise many readers.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Only 16 at the time, Freeman entered Berkeley in 1961, when the nascent social and political activism of the '60s was percolating. In prose that is by turns pedantic and moving, Freeman revisits her journey through those swirling, exciting and disillusioning times. Using her own diaries and letters as well as FBI files and other documentary sources, Freeman switches back and forth between her recollections and her more measured observations as a scholar reflecting on these times. Wide-eyed at 16, Freeman read all she could find on the various movements on campus and plunged into her studies to gain a broader understanding of the world around her. Witnessing segregation in the South while active in the Civil Rights movement, she became disillusioned with Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy for claiming that he had desegregated all Southern bus stations. Freeman moved on to a leadership role in the free speech movement, which sponsored Malcolm X as well as Ralph Forbes, a leader of the American Nazi Party, to speak on campus. Committed as she was to her causes, Freeman reveals her very real fear of being arrested for the first time. She honestly admits that the free speech movement, like many other '60s movements, was run mostly by men, and that the emerging women's liberation movement had little effect on gender equality. Breezy and anecdotal, on one hand, and scholarly and dry, on the other, Freeman's account provides yet another glimpse of one ordinary person's experience in the extraordinary '60s working to make a better world. 12 b&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review:

When Jo Freeman began her undergraduate education in 1961, the University of California, Berkeley, like many colleges then, took "in loco parentis" seriously. Administrative rules enforced curfews, banned political groups from operating on campuses and forced professors to sign loyalty oaths. Freeman and other students joined Slate, "a permanent student political party" that began by protesting racial segregation in fraternities and sororities, then quickly moved on to demonstrate against the death penalty, for civil rights in the South and for fair housing in Berkeley. The more the university attempted to crack down on student unrest, the larger the dissident groups grew. The arrest of one alumnus for handing out leaflets at a student-only table led to the birth of the Free Speech Movement. Freeman, author of "A Room at a Time: How Women Entered Party Politics" and other works about feminism, brings enormous research to bear on her heady college days. In a book that is less memoir than political history, the descriptions of some of the players and of her own life pale against the campus uprisings - sparks that allowed later protests against the war in Vietnam to ignite. Karla Jay International Herald Tribune

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