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On Strike! Shut it Down! (Exhibit 1999)

Case 10: Legacy

Like their origins, the legacy of the student and faculty strikes is complex and not fully understood. After five months of tension and turmoil, what were the results of the San Francisco State College Strike of 1968-1969?

On campus:

  • creation of a Black Studies Department, which granted a B. A. degree in Black Studies
  • creation of a School of Ethnic Studies, including Black Studies, La Raza, Asian-American Studies, and later, American Indian Studies
  • continuing admission of underrepresented students
  • funding and staffing of an Economic Opportunity Program
  • departure of many faculty and students, who left to go elsewhere
  • firing of several faculty members, who were later reinstated
  • firing of several staff members, who were not reinstated
  • placement of Associated Students' funds into receivership
  • continuing tension even today among those who were involved and took positions
  • increased involvement of students in campus governance
  • amnesty for striking students

In the California State College system:

  • state laws and Title 5 of the State Administrative Code changed to give California State College presidents control over Associated Students' finances

In the state:

  • State Legislature created legislation to limit demonstrations on college campuses and to restore order
  • Harmer Bill passed affecting EOP eligibility

In the nation:

  • S. I. Hayakawa elected as a Republican Senator from California, 1976-1982
  • The San Francisco State College Strike recognized as the longest student strike in the history of American Higher Education
  • The Strike changed the pattern of how higher education looked at underrepresented groups on American campuses


  • San Francisco State College became famous as a hotbed of radical activity
  • S. I. Hayakawa and his tam o'shanter became an international symbol of law and order

Do we know what really happened at San Francisco State from 1967-1969?

In one sense, "it is too soon to reach a final conclusion" and in another, "too late to discover some of the facts." (A recent comment made in a conversation between two individuals who were involved in the campus events of the student and faculty strikes.)

As noted in the 'context' case, the late 1950s and early 1960s was a complex time world-wide, with many significant events happening simultaneously. That complexity was mirrored at San Francisco State College during the turbulent years of 1967 - 1969. The creators of this exhibit gathered a sampling of information and materials documenting the many issues and events that took place on the campus and elsewhere.

However, not all the information on what happened has been found. Therefore, the exhibit creators could not say with certainty what happened and/or why. That is for the future to disclose. Nevertheless, the issues and events remain vivid. For many individuals, who are still part of the campus community, the controversy from the student and faculty strikes is as much alive today as it was then. For those who have come since, these events remain a topic of interest, speculation, and hopefully research.

What materials were used in this exhibit?

Both primary and secondary source materials. Primary source materials are the raw materials of history--the records, artifacts, and accounts of events generated by the original participants and observers. They include such items as letters, diaries, memoirs, photographs, films, objects, newspapers, oral histories/interviews, wills, deeds, etc. In the sciences, primary source materials are those which report original research, such as articles in scientific journals or technical reports. Thus, primary source materials provide the evidence and documentation of events. These accounts may include events from our ordinary daily lives, from organizational activities, as well as from scientific research.

Writings or other works, such as documentary films, which later summarize, analyze, interpret, or comment upon the original events, are considered secondary works. These are usually based upon primary source materials, and may take the form of books, magazines or scholarly journal articles, handbooks, or encyclopedias.

In this exhibit you can see original campus newspapers, broadsides and flyers, and facsimiles (exact copies of the original) of many other objects. All the source materials used were created at the time of the events.

In addition, you can see secondary sources, such as the time-line in case 3, which is a useful guideline created several years after the event, but based on examining original information about the strike. Compare it to a primary source timeline in case 5.

How did the exhibit creators put together this exhibit?

Since they were here at San Francisco State during both the student and faculty strikes, they used their own memories for creating the concept from which the exhibit would be shaped. In addition, they read original source materials, as well as books and other documents about the strikes. They also read transcripts of oral histories from strike participants. They talked with campus colleagues who shared their own memories of the turmoil of 1968 and 1969. Through the course of their endeavors, the exhibit creators found information which illustrated the points they wanted to make.

Did the exhibit creators find all of the information they needed to draw firm conclusions about what happened? No!

There are many records and sources of information which simply are not available, either because of never having been recorded or just not gathered. Without a complete set of documents, or all the major participants to interview, the exhibit creators found that an element of speculation would be inevitable. Regardless of this fact, the exhibit still required many hours of thought even to formulate the early questions which outlined the research. The San Francisco State College strikes are very complex subjects and the exhibit creators took a long hard look at both strikes' kaleidoscopic events.

Is there strike material which has not yet been located or made available?


The Archives/Special Collections Department and the Labor Archives and Research Center still receive materials concerning the student and faculty strikes, and in each donation, there usually is something new. Each new item can shed new light on what happened.

How can you know what happened?

You can read documents as well as talk to faculty, staff, students, and administrators who were here at the time. You can ask questions. Explore! And through your explorations maybe you will be the one who finds the answers to some of the unanswered questions.

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