Subversive Histories: Seth Rosenfeld in Conversation with University Librarian Tom Leonard on the 50th Anniversary of the Free Speech Movement

September 11, 2014

Contact: Donna Corbeil, Director of Library Services
Berkeley Public Library
Contact: Kirsten Cowan, Executive Director
Berkeley Public Library Foundation

Subversive Histories: Seth Rosenfeld in Conversation with University Librarian Tom Leonard
on the 50th Anniversary of the Free Speech Movement

Berkeley, September 11, 2014—The Berkeley Public Library, in conjunction with the Berkeley Public Library Foundation and the Harry Weininger Family, invite you to join us for a special evening on October 1, 2014, with a reception from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. and the featured event from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm at the West Branch Library of the Berkeley Public Library, located at 1125 University Avenue, (near San Pablo Avenue) in Berkeley. This is a free public event but seating is limited to a first come, first served basis.

Seth Rosenfeld, author of Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, will speak about the Free Speech Movement that is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Seth Rosenfeld is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco and author of the best-selling book Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals and Reagan's Rise to Power (2012), published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Subversives traces the FBI's secret involvement with three iconic figures at Berkeley during the 1960s: the ambitious neophyte politician Ronald Reagan, the fierce but fragile radical Mario Savio, and the liberal University of California president Clark Kerr.

Through these converging narratives, Rosenfeld tells a dramatic and disturbing story of FBI surveillance, illegal break-ins, infiltration, planted news stories, poison-pen letters and secret detention lists. He reveals how the FBI's covert operations—led by Reagan's friend J. Edgar Hoover—helped ignite an era of student protest, undermined the Democrats, and benefited Reagan personally and politically. At the same time, he vividly evokes the life of Berkeley in the early sixties—and shows how the university community became a battleground in an epic struggle between the government and free citizens.

Subversives is winner of an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; a PEN USA award for research nonfiction; a Ridenhour Award from the Nation Institute; and a national Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine Award. Mr. Rosenfeld was an Honored Author at the Berkeley Public Library Foundation Authors Dinner in 2014.

Professor Leonard has served as the University Librarian at the UC Berkeley Campus for the last fifteen years. He is also a Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. He taught American history at Columbia University before joining the faculty at UC; and is a noted author in the field. His publications include: Above the Battle: War-Making in America from Appomattox to Versailles, The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting, and News for All. Leonard focuses much of his research and teaching on the role of the press in society. He is currently working on a book about “notorious Americans” and how journalists and historians have helped to build them up and tear them down.

As a journalist and historian, Leonard is well versed in the period of Mr. Rosenfeld’s book, which will make this a lively and engaging conversation. In addition, the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library is home to the Free Speech Movement Digital Archive, The campus is gearing up for the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement with a semester of events and activities commemorating the momentous events of 1964.

This event is underwritten by the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, through the generosity of the Harry Weininger Family. The Harry Weininger Family celebrates the life and generosity of Harry Weininger, who was a well-known figure in the Berkeley community and a longtime supporter of the Berkeley Public Library. Mr. Weininger was always interested in the law and received a law degree from the University of San Francisco in 1988 when he was 54, then volunteered his legal services through the Berkeley Public Library’s “Lawyers in the Library” program. This evening represents the third annual public event sponsored as a memorial by the Weininger Family.

The Berkeley Public Library Foundation brings together donors and supporters to make our great libraries extraordinary. For 20 years, the Foundation has raised private contributions to augment strong public funding. Generous donors to the recent Neighborhood Libraries Campaign gave more than three million dollars to outfit the renewed Claremont, North, South and West branches.

To find out more about this event, as well as how you can contribute to the Foundation’s work in support of our public libraries, please contact the Berkeley Public Library Foundation at, by calling (510) 981-6115, or visit

The West Branch Library was reopened in December 2013 following new construction replacing the previous outdated and smaller facility. The new Library is designed by Harley Ellis Devereaux Architects of Oakland. The new 9,300 square foot West Branch Libraries embodies the latest in building sustainability and green building techniques. One of the most significant aspects of this new public building is the primary design objective to achieve Zero Net Energy (ZNE) performance, which it did in the first six months of operation due to the use of photovoltaics, natural light and ventilation.

The West Branch Library is located at 1125 University Avenue and is open Monday, 10 am – 6 pm, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 am – 8 pm, Thursday, noon – 8 pm, Friday and Saturday, 10 am - 6 pm, and is closed on Sunday.

Wheelchair accessible. For questions, to request a sign language interpreter or other accommodations for this event, please call (510) 981-6195 (voice) or (510) 548-1240 (TTY); at least five working days will help ensure availability. Please refrain from wearing scented products to public programs. Visit the library’s website:

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