Mayor Alioto

Every four years in January, San Franciscans inaugurate a mayor. Forty-four years ago, on January 8, 1968, San Francisco welcomed Mayor Joseph Lawrence Alioto. A San Francisco native whose family had operated fish processing companies since before the 1906 earthquake and fire, Mayor Alioto was in office from 1968 to 1976, during a time of great turmoil and great growth in The City.

In 1968, City folks joined people across the country to protest continuing the war in Vietnam, a negative drug culture was replacing peace-and-love-happenings  in The Haight, and crime was an ongoing concern for the citizens. The Mayor could not have imagined that at 10 months in office, on November 6, 1968, students at San Francisco State would launch the longest student strike in history. With the Civil Rights Movement gaining great attention all over the country, the State students’ demands included creating a Department of Black Studies to grant a Bachelor’s Degree in Black Studies at the school.

Then at less than a year in office, on January 6, 1969, Mayor Alioto saw the professors at San Francisco State launch the first-ever faculty strike in the United States. Although the professors, led by the American Federation of Teachers Union Local 1352, joined the students on strike, the professors had their own labor issues with the administration.

Mayor Alioto’s legacy includes some significant building projects for San Francisco. He helped to create Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the Transamerica Pyramid and the Embarcadero Center. He also was seen as a negotiator and ultimately a peacemaker to end both the student and faculty strikes on March 21, 1969.

Today, there are ethnic studies departments at universities across the country offering degree programs. The original Black Studies Department at SFSU is now called the African Studies Department in the College of Ethnic Studies.

Best wishes,