Mar 31, 1960 - Apr 21, 1965

The Civil Rights Movement in The Bay Area

The Bancroft Library

Social protest and change as told through The San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Newspaper Photographs and News Stories


Beginning after World War II and reaching critical mass by the 1960s, African Americans mobilized against discrimination and the Civil Rights Movement was born. Activists in the Movement demanded an end to segregation and fought for equality and fairness in education, housing, and employment opportunities.  By the 1960's, the Civil Rights Movement, which began in the South, had reached California.  Once the Movement took hold in the Bay Area, it brought together people from all races and backgrounds to fight against the social injustice that had become so ingrained in society.  The fight was brutal and the victories were hard won.  Some of the weapons that activists used in the fight were sit-ins, marches, pickets and parades. 

This exhibit shows the struggles and triumphs during the Civil Rights Movement in the Bay Area through photographs and news stories from the News-Call Bulletin Newspaper during the period 1960-1965. 


On February 1, 1960, four college students in Greensboro, North Carolina challenged Woolworth's policy against allowing African Americans to eat at the lunch counter with a sit-in.  Boycotts of Woolworths occurred across the United States and here in the Bay Area.  Events such as this sparked a national reaction and the Civil Rights Movement took hold. 

Terry Francois, the President of San Francisco branch of the NAACP and college student Thomas Gaither stand together. They hold the NAACP Organization and Conference Manual, West Coast Region. Terry Francois spoke at a local NAACP meeting in Longshoremens' Hall to start a boycott of Kress and Woolworth stores.

Local NAACP President Starts Boycott of Kress and Woolworth (stores)


On Sunday, September 15th, 1963, four young African American girls were killed when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  Three days later, 2,500 people solemnly marched along Post Street in San Francisco to protest this tragedy. (News-Call Bulletin, September 18, 1963).  Rabbi Alvin Fine, Chairman William Chester of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), United States attorney Cecil Poole, and Leonard Farmer spoke to the crowd filling the streets in front of the Post Office building.

Crowd Rallies for Birmingham Bombing Protests


Tragedies such as the bombing in Birmingham Alabama made headlines, drew attention to and strengthened the resolve of the movement organizers and demonstrators.  As the movement gained momentum, integration marches, human rights marches and parades occurred in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area.  

Human Rights March.  On July 12, 1964, 40,000 people marched along Market Street to protest the nomination of Sen. Barry Goldwater as the Republican presidential nominee due to his stance on civil rights issues.  
 Parade participants marching with signs.
Human Rights March
Mayor George Christopher in front of City Hall during a civil rights demonstration
Marchers protest violence relating to assault on Asian store-owner Park Huey


The U.C. Berkeley Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) played a major role in organizing protests and sit-ins.  Below and to the right are images of a sit-in at the Post Office protesting the Federal Governments inaction in the racial crisis in Mississippi. Demonstrators were carried from U.S. Attorney Cecil Poole's offices.  They demanded that the U.S. Marshals be sent to Mississippi to protect civil rights workers after three African American civil rights workers disappeared.   (News-Call Bulletin, June 26, 1964).

Protesters are dragged from the offices of Cecil Poole.

Protesters are dragged from the offices of U.S. Attorney Cecil Poole.  Below, Poole addresses the protectors. 

Cecil Poole addresses protestors


On March 8 1965, deadly racial violence had erupted in Selma, Alabama, as African Americans were attacked by state troopers while preparing to march to Montgomery to protest voting rights discrimination in Selma, Alabama. 

 "At least 67 Negroes were injured in the 30-minute melee Sunday when state troopers warned the marchers to stop - then hurtled into the demonstrators with clubs and dense clouds of yellow tear gas."  (News-Call, March 8, 1964).

In San Francisco, demonstrators gathered in front of City Hall in San Francisco to protest the Federal Government's failure to intervene in the crisis in Alabama. 

A large crowd of people gather in front of City Hall to protest Lyndon B. Johnson's failure to intervene in Selma, Alabama
Torchlight Processional for the tragedy in Selma, Alabama.


In the Bay Area, particularly in Berkeley, housing was segregated between white areas and minority areas.  This form of discrimination was deeply ingrained and pervasive.  

A Citizen's Committee to Study Discrimination in Housing was created in 1961.  This Committee conducted interviews, controlled tests, telephone surveys, reviewed reports of the NAACP.  They concluded "discrimination in housing is widespread and general, in both rental and sale of property" in Housing Discrimination in Berkeley: A Report by a Citizen's Committee to the Community Welfare in July of 1962 (p. 2).  The evidence collected illustrated that white home owners, landlords and real estate agents enforced a practice of keeping minorities out of white neighborhoods.  "The widespread belief was that when minorities came into 'good' neighborhoods, property values went down." (At Berkeley in the Sixties: Education of an Activist, 1961-1965. by Jo Freeman, p. 69).

The fight to enact fair housing laws was major struggle without an easy solution.  Protests occurred in cities throughout California.  Ordinances on fair housing were passed and repealed.  Action finally occurred at the state level, with the passage of the Rumford Fair Housing Act. 


Residents of East Palo Alto march through the community with signs urging that it remain a diverse neighborhood and does not turn into "another negro ghetto" 
Fair Housing Protest at the Housing Authority Office in Richmond
Hunter's Point Housing Protest Meeting
Views of Joy Goodwin, Dorothy Lathan, Ann Jefferson, and Julia Commer wearing protest signs "Hear no FEPC (Fair Employment Practice Committee)" 


Martin Luther King visited the Bay Area in May of 1964 for a rally to raise awareness and support of the passing of the civil rights bill in the U.S. Senate and to speak out against the attempt to repeal the Rumford Fair Housing Act in California, which was a law passed in 1963 to help end racial discrimination by property owners and landlords who refused to rent or sell their property to non-white customers. Reverend King stated that the repealing the Rumford Fair Housing Act would be a major set-back for California, for democracy, and for "what we are trying to do in the South."  (News-Call Bulletin, May 29, 1964).

In 1964, the California Real Estate Association sponsored an initiative, Proposition 14, which would amend the constitution of California. This amendment gave landlords and property owners absolute discretion to choose who to sell, lease or rent to. The measure passed and soon after, the federal government cut off all housing funding to California in response.  (News-Call Bulletin, November 5, 1964).  In 1967, the California Supreme Court held that the proposition was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection and due process provisions of the California Constitution. (Reitman v. Mulkey 64 Cal. 2d 529 (1966).

Reverend Martin Luther King Press Conference -- Grace Cathedral
Reverend King answers questions for the press. Reverend Pike
Reverend Martin Luther King standing at a podium and speaking into microphones
Martin Luther King, Bishop James A. Pike of Grace Cathedral, Reverend George L. Bedford, and others sit at the conference table


Discriminatory hiring practices were in place in many companies and organizations in San Francisco and the Bay Area, including Mel's Drive-In, the Sheraton Palace, the car dealerships on Auto Row, and the Bank of America.  Protesters, organized by CORE and the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination, began picketing these companies to force them the change their hiring practices to hire more minorities and to train them for better paying positions with greater opportunity.

Mel's Drive-In

Beginning on October 19, 1963, the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination organized pickets of the San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley locations of Mel's Drive-In restaurants.  Harold Dobbs was one of the owners of Mel's Drive-In and was running for mayor at the time. (Berkeley in the 60s by Jo Freemanp. 89).  On the Saturday before the election, November 5, 1963, the Ad Hoc Committee picketed Dobbs home.  The demonstrators conducted a mass sit-in of Mel's Drive-In, occupying all of the seats of the restaurant but refusing to order food. 59 protestors were arrested.  Dobbs signed an agreement a week later with the Ad Hoc Committee to hire more African Americans in front of house positions.  

Protesters picket the job discrimination at Mel's Drive-in with signs asking "Where are the negro waitresses?"

The Sheraton-Palace Hotel

In San Francisco, many hotels refused to hire African Americans as bartenders and waiters.  The Ad Hoc Committee targeted the Sheraton-Palace to picket for its discriminatory hiring practices. On March 1st, 123 protesters were arrested. (News-Call Bulletin, March 2, 1964). 

On Thursday, March 5th, the Sheraton-Palace hired its first African American waitress but refused to sign an agreement.  As the pickets continued, more and more people joined the demonstrators and the number of protesters increases to the thousands. On March 6 and 7, thousands of people gathered to demonstrate.  About 200 protesters were arrested. Mayor Shelley facilitated an agreement between all parties and 33 hotels agreed to a nondiscrimination policy, with a goal of 15-20% minority employees and inspections to ensure compliance with this agreement, among other things.  (News-Call Bulletin, March 7, 1964).

Police removing protesters at the Sheraton-Palace Hotel
Protesters engaging in a sit-in at the Sheraton-Palace Hotel
Bill Bradley standing and looking through the bars of a jail

Bill Bradley, chairman of the San Francisco chapter of CORE, was among those arrested in the Sheraton-Palace pickets.  He was held in contempt of court for failing to appear and ordered to pay a fine of $500 or serve five days in prison.  He stated he could not pay the fine.  (News-Call Bulletin, June 1, 1964). 

Demonstrators protesting the imprisonment of Bill Bradley

Rights Groups Split - The San Francisco NAACP and the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination

Like CORE, these two organizations played major roles in mobilizing protesters and organizing demonstrations.  However, the tactics and tone they employed were very different, which caused friction between the two groups.  The NAACP, led by older, well-recognized Civil Rights leaders, believed the protests should take a more formal and measured approach.  The mostly collegiate members of the Ad Hoc Committee did not heed the advice of the NAACP, as the defiance of the law and subsequent arrests at the Sheraton-Palace illustrate.  On March 7, 1964, the President Francois of the NAACP openly expressed his frustrations with the actions of the Ad Hoc Committee, stating "I'm not at all certain I can continue to work with them under these circumstances - not when my advice is given so little consideration." (News-Call, March 7, 1964).

Auto Row:  The Cadillac Agency

The next target for picketing was Auto Row on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.  The car dealerships there refused to hire African Americans for any work other than janitorial.  On March 14, 1964, more than 1,000 demonstrators amassed at the Cadillac showrooms to picket. (News-Call Bulletin, March 14, 1964).  107 protesters were arrested.  A second sit-in occurred on April 11th at the Cadillac, Lincoln-Mercury and Chrysler dealerships on Van Ness.  They entered the dealership and sat in the floor room and in offices and 226 protesters were arrested.  (News-Call Bulletin, April 11, 1964).  The picketing continued and, on April 13th, the national NAACP announced that demonstrations would be held against dealerships across the nation.  Finally, Mayor Shelley's Interim Committee on Human Relations intervened to bring the NAACP and the auto-dealers to a resolution. 


Protesters sitting inside on the floor of the Cadillac agency.
Police carrying protesters out of the building.
Hearing on the Cadillac protest - Hall of Justice

Bank of America 

In May of 1964, CORE and the NAACP organized a picket of Bank of America to protest its discriminatory hiring practices.  The picketing campaign included "bank-ins" in which demonstrators held up lines by window hopping from teller to teller and asking them to make change.  "Several demonstrators asked for rolls of pennies and them insisted on breaking them open at the tellers window and counting them while customers fumed in lines behind them."  (News-Call Bulletin, June 2, 1964).  Bank of American entered into an agreement with the State Fair Employment Practice Commission to implement equal employment opportunity policies and hire more minorities.  (News-Call, June 4, 1964)

 Protesters fill sidewalks around the corners on both sides of the street


The residential segregation of black and white Bay Area residents was a major cause of the segregation of Bay Area schools.  Max Rafferty, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1964 stated that the problem of school segregation "will not be solved so long as any American family is prevented from acquiring housing in any neighborhood where the family wants to live." (News-Call Bulletin, March 9, 1964).  This was particularly evident in the cities of Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco.  (Prophets of Rage:  The black freedom struggle in San Francisco, 1945-1969 by Daniel Crowe, p. 72)

"While the courts were slowly enforcing the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, outlawing educational segregation in the South, schools in northern and western cities like Berkeley were becoming ever more segregated. The fact that northern and western segregation was "de facto," the result of residential patterns, rather than "de jure," the result of discriminatory laws, made little difference to civil rights activists." (Berkeley, A City in History by Charles Wollenberg).

There was no clear or easy answer, and despite some advances by Berkeley in public education, this issue was still unresolved by 1969.  (Prophets of Rage:  The black freedom struggle in San Francisco, 1945-1969 by Daniel Crowe, p. 78-79).


Protesters (including the Reverend Cecil Williams) marching with signs in front of the Board of Education
Students shown protesting through the Fillmore District against segregation.
Members of CORE demonstrating against the school board


News-Call Bulletin (selected dates 1960-1967).

Freeman, Jo. (2004). At Berkeley in the Sixties:  Education of an Activist, 1961-1965.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Brilliant, Mark. (2010).  The Color of America Has Changed:  How racial diversity shaped civil rights reform in California 1941-1978.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 

Crowe, Daniel. (2000).  Prophets of Rage:  The Black Freedom Struggle in San Francisco, 1945-1969.  New York, NY:  Garland Publishing, Inc. 

Wollenberg, Charles.  Berkeley, A City in History.

Regional Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library

NAACP Official and Civil Rights Worker:  Tarea Hall Pittman

Civil Rights, Law, and the Federal Courts: The Life of Cecil Poole, 1914-1997

Attorney, Judge, and Oakland Mayor: Lionel Wilson

A Calfornia Supreme Court Justice Looks at Law and Society, 1964-1996Allen E. Broussard



Collection Title: African Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area,

Date: 1963-1974

Collection Number: BANC PIC 1985.079- -AX

Extent: 140 black and white photographs 140 digital objects

Collector: James de Tar Abajian

Collection Title: Social protest collection 

Date (inclusive): 1943-1982 Date (bulk): (bulk 1960-1975) 

Collection Number: BANC MSS 86/157 c; BANC FILM 2757 

Extent: Number of containers: 27 cartons, 2 oversize boxes, 1 card file box Linear feet: 33.87 Microfilm copies: 101 reels : positive and negative (BNEG 3106) ; 35 mm 

Collection Title: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Region I, photograph collection 

Date (inclusive): ca. 1940-1982 

Collection Number: BANC PIC 1978.147 

Creator: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Region 1 Office 

Extent: 1 box (300 photographic prints) and 2 oversize photographic prints ; various sizes Linear feet: .4 72 digital objects 

Title: Ralph J. Gleason letters to Alexander P. Hoffman, 1963. 

Collection Number:  BANC MSS 86/134 c  

portfolio 1 

Fourteen letters giving commentary on current events, including the Lenny Bruce trials, the civil rights movement, radio station KPFA in Berkeley, writers, jazz musicians, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Includes a letter from Gleason's wife, Jean, to Hoffman. 

Title: Eldridge Cleaver photograph collection 

Call Number:  BANC PIC 1991.078 

See also the Eldridge Cleaver papers BANC MSS 91/213 c   

Title: Stephen Shames Black Panther photograph collection 

BANC PIC 2002.078--AX 

Images of Black Panther Party leaders, members, and others at various events and rallies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Included are Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, George Murray, Reies Tijerina, Charles Garry, Angela Davis, David Hilliard, Huey Newton, and George Jackson. Copyright Retained By Photograp 

Stephen Shames website:

Credits: Story

Digital Curator — Regena Rosati, The Bancroft Library

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google