Fiat Lux Redux: Ansel Adams and Clark Kerr

Free Speech Movement, 1964-1965

…the second greatest administrative blunder … in university history”

--Clark Kerr, The Gold and the Blue, v. 2

 

In the 1960s the Berkeley community was violently disrupted by activists demonstrating for civil rights for minorities and freedom of speech and political activity, and against establishment authority and the Vietnam War. As Kerr framed it, the Free Speech Movement was not about free speech (which he ardently supported) but about student advocacy for off-campus issues, organizations, and persons.

Group Carrying “Free Speech” Banner through Sather Gate

Group Carrying “Free Speech” Banner through Sather Gate

Profiles of several of the most prominent student leaders of the Free Speech Movement, including Mario Savio, an eloquent philosophy major who became the face and voice of the movement. Several protesters including Savio traced their activist roots to their experiences in the Freedom Summer Movement in Mississippi in 1964.

“The Rebels Tell Why They Care,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 3, 1964

“The Rebels Tell Why They Care,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 3, 1964

Mario Savio speaking from roof of car.

View of students in Sproul Plaza Surrounding Police Car, October 1, 1964
View of students in Sproul Plaza Surrounding Police Car, October 1, 1964

Kerr addressed a capacity crowd of 15,000, endorsing a faculty proposal to resolve the crisis which included complete amnesty for student protesters.  When Savio stormed the stage for an impromptu address following Kerr, he was seized by police and unceremoniously dragged offstage leaving shocking “police state” images in the minds of observers.  Then, in Kerr’s words, “all hell broke loose.” A fragile armistice was shattered and trust between the parties irrevocably lost.

President Kerr Speaking in the Greek Theatre, December 7, 1964

President Kerr Speaking in the Greek Theatre, December 7, 1964