Red radiolarian cherts from three localities within the Franciscan subduction complex of northern California contain three components of remanent magnetization which are best isolated by progressive thermal demagnetization. The first component, usually removed by 300 °C, has an in situ direction similar to the present axial-dipole field and is probably a recently acquired thermoviscous overprint. A second component, generally removed between 300 and 630 °C, has constant (normal) polarity and direction within each section and is interpreted to have been acquired by low-temperature chemical alteration during subduction and accretion at the continental margin. The third component, isolated between ∼560 and 680 °C, has both normal and reversed polarities, passes a fold test, and is inferred to have been acquired during or soon after deposition. The available paleomagnetic, biostratigraphic, and geochemical data indicate deposition of these cherts along the paleoequator (0°-2°N or S paleolatitude) between Pliensbachian and Oxfordian time as the oceanic plate moved eastward, relative to North America, beneath the equatorial zone of high biologic productivity. Between Bathonian and Cenomanian time, the chert sequences apparently moved progressively away from the paleoequator (2°-15°N or S), and were soon after accreted to the American continental margin. Plate reconstruction models for the Farallon plate corroborate low-paleolatitude trajectories from ridge crest to subduction zone (for example, from 3°S to 11°N), and they imply subsequent northward translation of the Franciscan Complex (> 4,000 km) by strike-slip faulting related to relative motions between the Farallon, Kula, Pacific, and North American plates.