BERKELEY AT WAR by W.J. Rorabaugh


The 1960's
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Taking the events that shook U Cal at Berkeley and the city itself during the 1960's as a paradigm, Rorabaugh (The Craft Apprentice, 1985) manages in this evocative and smoothly written work to comment on the major national concerns of the period. Himself a resident of Berkeley in the 1970's, the author became determined to sort out the various elements that met head-to-head in the normally quiet university town during the turbulent sixties. What he found makes a compelling story of politics and power, silliness and cynicism, ideology and idiosyncracies. Prior to the upheavals. Berkeley was in the thrall of the university trustees, a group of wealthy conservatives bent on maintaining the status quo. A paternalistic policy affected everything from city taxes to curriculum, the aim being to preserve the trustees' privileged positions. Not unexpectedly, as the civil-rights movement heated up throughout the country, reverberations were felt even in this intellectual enclave. The conservative elements were first confronted by a liberal contingent, soon to be replaced by radicals on- and off-campus. The result was mayhem. Rorabaugh is particularly effective in encapsulating these various philosophies and in capturing in vivid strokes the portraits of the major figures in the confrontations. When, for example, radical leaders Jerry Rubin, Stephen Smale, Steve Hamilton, and Steve Cherkoss were called before the HUAC, but fellow-radical Stewart Albert was not, Albert was incensed. He was, Rubin commented, suffering from "subpoenas envy." Rorabaugh catches the temper of the times, from the earlier Beat Revolution of S.F.'s North Beach to the heyday of Oakland's Black Panthers, from the rise and fall of the Haight-Ashbury hippies to the establishment of Berkeley's "People's Park." He leads deftly from boardroom to classroom, coffeehouse to crash pad, in a perceptive and evenhanded Baedeker to a turbulent era.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1989
ISBN: 19-505877-1
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
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