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Campus cafe, oral history project commemorate Free Speech Movement

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The Free Speech Movement Cafe, which commemorates the 1964 Free Speech Movement and its leading activist Mario Savio.


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APRIL 13, 2023

The Free Speech Movement Cafe, or FSM Cafe, officially opened Feb. 3, 2000. The cafe commemorates the Free Speech Movement, which originated on campus in 1964, and the legacy of Mario Savio.

The FSM Oral History Project at the Bancroft Library consists of interview archives aimed at filling in information about the movement that remains undocumented, according to the UC Berkeley library website. The project, in addition to the FSM Cafe, was funded by Stephen Silberstein’s gift to the campus.

“We wanted interviewees to talk about issues that had not surfaced in contemporary accounts — for example, the role of race and gender within the movement itself,” the library website states. “We wanted to record the story of leaders who had not been interviewed previously, and to have them reflect on the interpersonal and social dynamics that influenced decision-making, in addition to the political and tactical issues that were discussed.”

The majority, if not all, of the photos and text on the informational plaques in the FSM Cafe were drawn from the archives housed at the Bancroft Library documenting the FSM, according to senior associate university librarian Elizabeth Dupis.

There are nearly 50 interviews within the oral project conducted between 1999 and 2001 by historian Lisa Rubens, who was also a student on campus at the time of the FSM. Some of the interviews are still getting added to the archive, according to the library website. One of its focuses was finding subjects that represented the wide spectrum of political beliefs, reflected in the organizations which composed the FSM Executive Committee.

“This remains one of the least developed parts of the story and should be pursued,” the library website states. “Inevitably an undertaking of this scope veers from its carefully mapped strategy and follows a seemingly un-plotted course.”

The interviews reflect the period of reflection that the movement promoted. Many talked about the relationship between their studies and current events, according to the website.

Students and faculty from the departments of political science, history and sociology were chosen to reflect on these exchanges that took place between students, professors and teaching assistants during the FSM. Robert Scalapino, a professor in the department of political science who “opposed the movement,” according to the library website, was also interviewed for the project.

“These are particularly useful for illuminating the multiplicity of concerns students had, the moral fervor that drove them, and for some, how they came to think of themselves as citizens,” the website states.

Contact Sandhya Ganesan at 


APRIL 13, 2023