The Summer of Love
The Summer of Love refers to the summer of 1967, when 100,000 people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, creating a phenomenal cultural and political rebellion. While hippies also gathered in other parts of US, and across Europe, San Francisco was the center of the hippie revolution, a melting pot of music, psychoactive drugs, sexual freedom, creative expression, and politics. The Summer of Love became a defining moment of the 1960s, as the hippie counterculture movement came into public awareness. This unprecedented gathering of young people is often considered to have been a social experiment, because of alternative lifestyles that became common, both during the summer itself and during subsequent years. These lifestyles included communal living; the free and communal sharing of resources, often among total strangers; and free love.
Ironically, the summer of 1967 also saw some of the worst violence in US cities in the country’s history. Racial riots and insurrections occurred in places such as Detroit and Newark. This aspect of the summer of 1967 is often called The Long, Hot Summer. The cause of this violence is generally attributed to racial discrimination against African-Americans and the frustration and anger it inspired in the Blacks.
Inspired by the Beats(a group of American writers who gained prominence in the 1950s, led by Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, whose work expressed their feelings of alienation from middle class society, rejection of mainstream American values, experimentation with drugs and alternate forms of sexuality, and an interest in Eastern spirituality), who declared themselves independent from the authoritarian order of America, the Haight-Ashbury ‘anti-community’ rested on a rejection of American commercialism. Haight residents eschewed the material benefits of modern life, encouraged by the distribution of free food and organized shelter by the Diggers, and the creation of institutions such as the Free Clinic for medical treatment. Psychedelic drug use became but one means to find a ‘new reality’.
Postcards that documented this remarkable period in history, from: http://www.antiquetrader.com/article/1967_the_summer_of_love/
The prelude to the Summer of Love was the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967, which was produced and organized by artist Michael Bowen as a “gathering of tribes” and attracted approximately 30,000 people. The event was announced by the Haight-Ashbury’s own psychedelic newspaper, the San Francisco Oracle: “A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.”
College and high-school students began streaming into the Haight during the spring break of 1967. San Francisco’s government leaders, determined to stop the influx of young people once schools let out for the summer, unwittingly brought additional attention to the scene through ongoing series of articles in local papers. By spring, Haight community leaders formed the Council of the Summer of Love, which ironically gave the word-of-mouth event an official-sounding name. The mainstream media’s coverage of hippie life in the Haight-Ashbury drew the attention of youth from all over America. Hunter S. Thompson labeled the district “Hashbury” in The New York Times Magazine, and the activities in the area were reported almost daily. The hippie movement was also fed by the counterculture’s own media, particularly the San Francisco Oracle, whose pass-around readership topped a half-million at its peak that year.
The media’s fascination with the “counterculture” continued with the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, where approximately 30,000 people gathered for the first day of the music festival, with the number swelling to 60,000 on the final day. The song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” written by John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas and sung by Scott McKenzie was initially designed to promote the festival quickly transcended its original purpose by popularizing an idealized image of San Francisco.
During the Summer of Love, 100,000 young people from around the world flocked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, as well as to nearby cities, to join in the hippie experience. Free food, free drugs and free love were available in Golden Gate Park, a Free Clinic (whose work continues today) was established for medical treatment, and a Free Store gave away basic necessities to anyone who needed them.
The Haight-Ashbury could not accommodate this rapid influx of people, and the neighborhood scene quickly deteriorated. Overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicted the neighborhood. Many people simply left in the fall to resume their college studies. On October 6, 1967, those remaining in the Haight staged “The Death of the Hippie” ceremony, to signal the end of the event. When the newly-recruited Flower Children returned home, they brought new ideas, ideals, behaviors, and styles of fashion to many major cities in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.