Myth Of The 20th Century – Episode 15: San Francisco State University Strike

Welcome to the Myth of the 20th Century. The podcast airs on Fridays.

— Brought to you by —

Hank Oslo, Nick Mason, Alex Nicholson, and Lawrence Glarus


Any modern summary of the 1968-1969 student strikes at San Francisco State University will draw focus to the creation of the Ethnic Studies Department (ESD), but this outcome would have been far from obvious to a casual observer reading the paper. This is not to say that no-one could have predicted that the strike would win out, or that an ethnic studies department would be created, but that a casual observer might not even have known this was an issue or more importantly THE issue. Playing history forward, we see a sea of activist causes, power struggles, and holiness spirals ending in a negotiated surrender.

The narrative of this event plays out like much of the text of American history. The pattern plays out thusly: an issue which was extant but of questionable prominence is solved by a conflict. The conflict is then retroactively justified by the outcome. Such is the pattern. This story of conflict, indeed, like most political charged conflicts is the story of a power struggle. Behind the slogans, signs, riots and demands there was a push behind the scenes. It is difficult as with any event in history to trace a singular origin, but it’s clear there were a series of changes which enabled these eddies to form.

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  1. SecretForumLurker April 21, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Jerry Rubin’s public switch from yippie to yuppie was the basis for Martin Sheen’s counterculture figure turned right winger on a Murphy Brown episode called “Angst for the Memories”.

  2. Good stuff, guys.

    Is there any interest in doing an episode on Bethlehem Steel? I’m from the area and work in that industry.

    1. It’s an important topic. I often remind people their big blast furnace in Bethlehem, PA is now a casino..

      1. Yup, and it’s not even a nice one. The clientele are mostly Chinese from New York they bus in.

  3. The Last American April 22, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Maybe I should be embarrassed to admit it, but I’d never heard of this before. To reiterate a comment I made on another episode: please start out by recapping what happened! That way I’m caught up and know why I should give a damn.

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