Essential Question

Why did nearly 100,000 young people descend upon San Francisco in 1967 for a “Summer of Love"?


Hippies despise phoniness; they want to be open, honest, loving and free. They reject the plastic pretense of 20th-century America, preferring to go back to the “natural life,” like Adam and Eve.

— Hunter S. Thompson, “The ‘Hashbury’ is the Capital of the Hippies,” May 1967

During the summer of 1967, nearly 100,000 young people descended on the city of San Francisco for what became known as the “Summer of Love.” Similar pilgrimages and celebrations occurred in cities across the United States, but San Francisco is where the “hippie” movement reached its zenith. The bywords of the era – love, creativity, experimentation – served to define the ideals of the immense crowds drawn to the neighborhood known as Haight-Ashbury. These youths, many college educated, came to experience not only a new way of living, but also the music scene that led the charge against the “Establishment.”

Priding themselves on self-expression, the hippies took a markedly free attitude toward matters of love, art, fashion, and illicit drugs. Experimentation was crucial to the counterculture, and it was frequently evidenced in performances of the bands most associated with the Haight-Ashbury scene. Local artists such as the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, and Quicksilver Messenger Service incorporated an emphasis on extended instrumental improvisations, or “jams.” Other artistic elements included the influence of Eastern musical traditions and live performances that were heavily amplified and featured swirling light shows.

In this lesson, students will examine the different aspects of the San Francisco scene that made it such an important gathering place for the burgeoning hippie movement. Through a series of documents and videos, they will learn about the anti-capitalist movement of the Diggers, the central role of popular music, the lure of psychedelic art, and the psychology of mass gatherings such as the “Human Be-In” and the Monterey Pop Festival.

Instructors should be aware that this lesson includes some discussion of the role of illegal drugs, particularly LSD, in the San Francisco scene of 1967.

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Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Know (knowledge):
    • How San Francisco became a center of “hippie” counterculture, culminating in a mass gathering in 1967 known as the “Summer of Love”
    • How groups such as the Diggers and the Family Dog organized artistic, cultural, and political events that attracted young people from all over the country to San Francisco
    • That the Summer of Love attracted a range of people whose interests included politics, music, sex, drugs, and social reform
  2. Be able to (skills)
    • Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts)
    • Interpret a range of media, including songs, images, and text to develop and demonstrate an understanding of a period of time.
    • Common Core: Students will determine central themes and cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources (CCSS Reading 1; CCSS Reading 2; CCSS Writing 2)