SF State launches comprehensive online archive of historic student strike

Author: Matt Itelson
November 14, 2023
Protestors with raised fists and picket signs march on campus during the San Francisco State student strike
Photo Credit: Terry Schmitt

New website features hundreds of photos, news footage, posters, documents, oral histories 

As social movements across the globe are more active than ever, San Francisco State University just upgraded its own archives of the historic 1968 – 1969 Black Student Union/Third World Liberation Front student-led strike. Now, anyone can do their research easily through one comprehensive website, the San Francisco State Strike Collection. It is home to hundreds of historical photos, news footage, posters and flyers, documents and oral histories.  

The new website launched last week on Nov. 6 — marking 55 years to the day when SF State students first walked out to demand a curriculum that reflected the diversity of Black and other ethnic communities. The contentious, heavily policed strike continued for 115 days, becoming the longest college student strike in American history and forever changing the face of higher education. It not only resulted in SF State establishing the nation’s first College of Ethnic Studies, it also paved the way for a nationwide movement in ethnic studies as an academic field. 

The new online collection, organized by Special Collections & Archives in the J. Paul Leonard Library at SF State, combines materials that were previously available on several different websites. University Archives, the Bay Area Television Archive and the Labor Archives and Research Center are the sources for the materials.  

“The SF State Strike Collection is a major contribution to students, faculty, staff and community members who want to reflect, teach, study and understand the sacrifices made to establish the College of Ethnic Studies,” said Grace Yoo, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies. “It preserves the legacy of activists who founded the College of Ethnic Studies and shares this legacy with the rest of the world.” 

The collection also includes content that was previously not available, with more coming soon. An interactive exhibit tells the story of the strike through text, images and video, including events beginning in 1966 that led to the strike. At the time, SF State students created the nation’s first Black Student Union, which then proposed an institute of Black studies to a campus academic committee. 

“Our hope is that the site will highlight the social justice legacy of the campus, tell the full story of the strike and show how ordinary students mobilized to create the College of Ethnic Studies, special admissions and more,” said Eva Martinez, team processing lead for Special Collections. 

Visit the San Francisco State Strike Collection