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.
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. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.