San Francisco State: Born from activism, grown from activism

[Please feel free to add entries to this page focused on events at SFSU, placing them in their historical context.]

1899 San Francisco State established as San Francisco State Normal School.

San Francisco State was created due to demands of teachers, students and supporters to provide high quality training to the region's teachers. Historical context: The same year saw the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. The US attacked the newly liberated Philippines and seized control of Cuba and Puerto Rico while dividing Samoa in half with Germany, establishing the US as an imperialist power.

1906 Earthquake and fire forces the school to relocate from Nob Hill to a new campus at Buchanan and Haight Streets.

1921 Renamed San Francisco State Teachers College

1935 Renamed San Francisco State College

1953 Current campus near Lake Merced opens

1968-1969 Student Strike

Black students led a five-month long strike in the fall of 1968 at San Francisco State to make their university's curriculum and admission policies more relevant to the African American and Third World communities. This resulted in violent clashes with authorities at the time. Fighting against racism and elitism in education, they finally succeeded in creating the first Ethnic Studies department in America. The J. Paul Leonard Library media collection includes newsreel footage of the strike in the film Black Panther: San Francisco State: on strike. STRIKE! is a good introductory essay. 

SFSU student strikers in 1968.

1972 Received university status as California State University, San Francisco

1974 Renamed San Francisco State University

1975 Cesar Chavez Student Center opened its doors to students


Notable alumni

  • Willie Brown, 41st Mayor of San Francisco
  • Dana Carvey, comedian
  • Danny Glover, actor
  • Ron Dellums, 48th Mayor of Oakland
  • Annette Bening, actor
  • Richard Oakes, activist, founder of SKINS
  • Johnny Mathis, singer
  • Kirk Hammett, guitarist