The San Francisco Scene, 1967


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.


Motivational Activity:

  1. Distribute Handout 1 – Excerpt of Lyrics to “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie and play the video of McKenzie performing the song at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Discuss:
    • What are the major themes of the song?
    • What do you imagine a “love-in” might have been?
    • What does McKenzie mean by referring to the people in San Francisco as “gentle people” with “flowers in their hair”?
    • What impression do the people and the images in the video give about the atmosphere in San Francisco in the summer of 1967?
    • Why might this summer in San Francisco have come to be known as the “Summer of Love”?


1. Explain to students that in this lesson they will investigate the motivations of the thousands of young people who flocked to San Francisco in the summer of 1967.

2. Display the map of California on the board, making sure students locate San Francisco, Berkeley, and Monterey.

3. Display the picture of the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets and discuss briefly:

  • What do people mean when they refer to Haight-Ashbury? Where are Haight and Ashbury located? (Note to instructor: These questions are simply designed to ensure that students understand that Haight-Ashbury is a neighborhood in San Francisco that centers around the intersection of these two streets.)

4. Distribute Handout 2 – Document Set and Handout 3 – Guiding Questions for Documents to all students.

5. You can either split students up into groups, instructing each group to analyze the documents and discuss them using the questions on the handout as a guide, or you can complete these activities as a class. Either way, in connection with Document 4, on the Monterey Pop Festival, at the appropriate time play for the students the video trailer for the documentary Monterey Pop.

Summary Activity:

Reconvene the class as whole if they’ve split up into groups, and discuss these questions:

  1. What might have been the lure of the “Summer of Love” for the young people who left locales across America and made their way to San Francisco in 1967?
  2. Looking back almost half a century later, how would you evaluate what happened during the Summer of Love? What did it accomplish? What do you think is its ultimate legacy?
  3. Is “Summer of Love” an appropriate title? Why or why not?
  4. Why would/wouldn’t you have wanted to go to the Summer of Love? What do you think you might have gotten out of it?
  5. Two of the most celebrated performers at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, died three years later from illegal drug use, both at the age of 27. What do you imagine was the overall effect of illegal drug use on the thousands of young people who came to San Francisco for the Summer of Love? Why was Dr. David Smith’s clinic necessary? How does the prevalence of these drugs affect the legacy of the gathering?

Writing Prompt:

Assign students to write a letter in the voice of a young person who has left his or her hometown for San Francisco in the summer of 1967 and is writing to a friend back home about what he or she has done and seen there. The letter should reference specific events and/or other aspects of the Summer of Love described in the document set.


1. Research and write a report on the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, started by Dr. David Smith, a 1964 graduate of University of San Francisco Medical School, who founded the clinic to provide free medical care and treatment for drug addicts and others who came to San Francisco during the Summer of Love.

2. Research and write a report on the life of Emmett Grogan, the founder of the Diggers, a radical group of actors, artists, and performers based in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, who opened “free stores” and helped organize the “Human Be-In.”


Common Core State Standards

College and Career Readiness Reading Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 for Literature and Informational Text

  • Reading 1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • Reading 2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

College and Career Readiness Writing Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 in English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects

  • Writing 2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening for Grades 6-12

  • Speaking and Listening 1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • Speaking and Listening 4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • Speaking and Listening 6: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Social Studies – National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

  • Theme 1: Culture
  • Theme 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Theme 3: People, Places, and Environments
  • Theme 5: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Theme 6: Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Theme 10: Civic Ideals and Practices

National Standards for Music Education

Core Music Standard: Responding

  • Analyze: Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.
  • Interpret: Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators’ and/or performers’ expressive intent.
  • Evaluate: Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria.

Core Music Standard: Connecting

  • Connecting 11: Relate  musical ideas and works to varied contexts and daily life to deepen understanding.

National Core Arts Standards


  • Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
  • Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
  • Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.


  • Anchor Standard 10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
  • Anchor Standards 11: Relate artistic ideas and work with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.

Career Technical Education Standards (California Model) – Arts, Media and Entertainment Pathway Standards

Design, Visual and Media Arts (A)

  • A1.0 Demonstrate ability to reorganize and integrate visual art elements across digital media and design applications.
    A1.1 View and respond to a variety of industry-related artistic products integrating industry appropriate vocabulary.
    A1.4 Select industry-specific works and analyze the intent of the work and the appropriate use of media.
    A1.5 Research and analyze the work of an artist or designer and how the artist’s distinctive style contributes to their industry production.
    A1.9 Analyze the material used by a given artist and describe how its use influences the meaning of the work. ia, and Entertainment |
    A3.0 Analyze and assess the impact of history and culture on the development of professional arts and media products.
    A3.2 Describe how the issues of time, place, and cultural influence and are reflected in a variety of artistic products.
    A3.3 Identify contemporary styles and discuss the diverse social, economic, and political developments reflected in art work in an industry setting.
    A4.0 Analyze, assess, and identify effectiveness of artistic products based on elements of art, the principles of design, and professional industry standards.
    A4.2 Deconstruct how beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence commercial media (traditional and electronic).
    A4.5 Analyze and articulate how society influences the interpretation and effectiveness of an artistic product.
    A5.0 Identify essential industry competencies, explore commercial applications and develop a career specific personal plan.
    A5.2 Explore the role of art and design across various industry sectors and content areas.
    A5.3 Deconstruct works of art, identifying psychological content found in the symbols and images and their relationship to industry and society.

Performing Arts (B)

  • B2.0 Read, listen to, deconstruct, and analyze peer and professional music using the elements and terminology of music.
    B2.2 Describe how the elements of music are used.
    B2.5 Analyze and describe significant musical events perceived and remembered in a given industry generated example.
    B2.6 Analyze and describe the use of musical elements in a given professional work that makes it unique, interesting, and expressive.
    B2.7 Demonstrate the different uses of form, both past and present, in a varied repertoire of music in commercial settings from diverse genres, styles, and professional applications.
    B7.0 Analyze the historical and cultural perspective of multiple industry performance products from a discipline-specific perspective.
    B7.3 Analyze the historical and cultural perspective of the musician in the professional setting.
    B8.0 Deconstruct the aesthetic values that drive professional performance and the artistic elements necessary for industry production.
    B8.4 Use complex evaluation criteria and terminology to compare and contrast a variety of genres of professional performance products.