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.