The Story of We
South Berkeley is a special place: we are pioneers of the human condition. Our district has always been home to a diverse community of leaders and activists who show up for each other and for humanity. Let’s come together and write our chapter in The Story of We!
South Berkeley Leads the Way in the Civil Rights Movement
In the 1960s, the city took center stage in the national dialogue on race, war, poverty, and free speech. William Byron Rumford, the 50-year resident of South Berkeley and first African American elected to a state public office in Northern California, fought for civil rights at the national level. Rumford was the author of the groundbreaking 1959 Fair Employment Practices Act, and the 1963 Rumford Fair Housing Act, which banned discrimination in employment and housing. Rumford also served as chair of the California’s Public Health Committee, which passed the first air pollution control act in 1955. The act served as the forerunner to the Federal Clean Air Act.
South Berkeley Residents Came Together to Save the Neighborhood
South Berkeley is also home to leaders who fought for social and economic justice at the local level. Community activist Mable Howard led a lawsuit against Bay Area Rapid Transit, forcing the transit agency to underground the trains that traveled through the South Berkeley neighborhood. Saving the commercial district in the predominantly African American neighborhood from destruction, Howard and her activism preserved the quality of life and protected our communities in South Berkeley.
South Berkeley is Home to the Independent Living Movement Sparking the Americans with Disabilities Act
UC Berkeley alum Ed Roberts was the father of the Independent Living movement. Founder of the UC’s Physically Disabled Students Program, Roberts’ program became the model for South Berkeley’s Center for Independent Living (CIL)--the first independent living service and advocacy program run by and for people with disabilities--and the other 400 independent living centers across the country. He, along with other activists, fought relentlessly for disability rights and their acts of resistance paved the way for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
South Berkeley is Home to the Environmental Movement for Neighborhood Recycling
South Berkeley environmental activists came together to create the Ecology Action Collective, a group that progressed the environmental movement in the 60s and 70s. The efforts of the collective laid the groundwork for the recycling system we have in Berkeley today, and for ecology across the entire country. Moving us a step towards a zero-waste society, our community has constantly risen to the occasion to lead the way forward.
South Berkeley Activists Helped Create the Country’s First Police Review Commission
The City of Berkeley takes pride in being home to the nation’s first citizen oversight board over the Police Department. In 1973, South Berkeley activists organized citywide voters to pass the ballot measure that established the Police Review Commission, which was also the first to conduct investigations. We have set the precedent and modeled best practices for other jurisdictions to hold police officers accountable and ensure public safety for all.
South Berkeley is the First to Challenge Apartheid in
In the 1980s, South Berkeley activists were instrumental in leading Berkeley to become the first city to divest in companies doing business with South Africa. South Berkeley's own, California Congressman Ron Dellums, took this issue to Washington D.C. and passed anti-apartheid legislation in an historic override of Former President Reagan's veto. His legislation called for an immediate divestment by American corporations and sanctions against the South African government. South Berkeley officials challenged not just the local, but also the national and international conversation on apartheid.