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Through out history the world has seen some generations that have
made an impact more than all of its predecessors. The decade from 1960
to 1970 was definitely one of those eras. The people didn’t follow the
teachings of its elders, but rejected them for an alternative culture
which was their very own(Harris 14). Made up of the younger population
of the time this new culture was such a radical society that they were
given their own name which is still used today. They came to be called
the Hippies. The Hippie movement started in San Francisco, California
and spread across the United States, through Canada, and into parts of
Europe (World Book). But it had its greatest influence in America.
During the 1960’s a radical group called the Hippies shocked America
with their alternative lifestyle and radical beliefs.
Hippies came from many different places and had many different
backgrounds. All Hippies were young, from the ages of 15 to 25
(Worldbook). They left their families and did it for many different
reasons. Some rejected their parents’ ideas, some just wanted to get
away, and others simply were outcasts, who could only fit in with the
Hippie population. “Under 25 became a magical age, and young people all
over the world were united by this bond” (Harris 15). This bond was of
Non-conformity and it was the “Creed of the Young” (Harris 15). Most
Hippies came from wealthy middle class families. Some people said that
they were spoiled and wasting their lives away. But to Hippies
themselves this was a way of life and no one was going to get in the
way of their dreams and ambitions.
Hippies flocked to a certain area of San Francisco on the corner
of Haight Street and Ashbury Street, where the world got their first
view of this unique group. This place came to be known as the Haight
Ashbury District. There were tours of the district and it was said that
the tour “was the only foreign tour within the continental limits of
the United States” (Stern 147). The Hippies were so different that the
conservative middle class could not relate to them and saw them as
aliens. The Haight Ashbury district lies in the very center of San
Francisco. In the years of 1965 and 1966 the Hippies took over the
Haight Ashbury district(Cavan 49). There they lived and spread their
psychedelic theme through out the whole area. In the Haight Ashbury
district there were two parks that that all Hippies knew well. The most
famous of the two was the Golden Gate Park(Cavan 43). The single most
important event that put the Hippies on the map was held at the Golden
Gate Park. It was called the Trips Festival. The Trips Festival was a
week long festival designed to celebrate the LSD experience(Stern 148).
Besides this festival dozens of other events took place at Golden Gate
Park, some of which were free concerts by The Grateful Dead and
Jefferson Airplane and Anti-War rallies held by Hippie political
leaders. The other park is called the Buena Vista park and is known for
housing hippies at night and for socializing during the day.
As the 1960’s progressed, the youth in America united. “In 1969
400,000 young people materialized for three dizzying days to listen to
rock and blues music, to wear funny clothing or no clothes at all, to
talk, sing, dance, clap hands, to drink beer or smoke pot and make
love-but mostly to marvel again and again that they were all there
together” (This Fabulous Century 64). This festival was held in a small
town in up-state New York and came to be called Woodstock, after the
town it was held in. Also in Greenwich Village, New York Hippies had a
place. The Village on every Sunday was known to have hordes of singers
with banjos and drums celebrating their youth together(Stern 103).
One of the basic foundations of the Hippie movement was the
flagrant use of illegal drugs. There were many drugs that the Hippies
used but none was more used then marijuana. From 1960 to 1970 the
number of Americans who had tried marijuana had increased from a few
hundred thousand to 8,000,000. The majority of these new users were
from 12 years old to college seniors(This Fabulous Century 84). To some
Hippies, drugs and music were the most important aspects of their
lives. Another drug that was prevalent in the Hippie population was
LSD. Some Hippies thought that “LSD puts you in touch with your
surroundings” (Cavan 114). But that was not what always the case. On
occasion a hippie would take bad LSD and would experience a “bad trip”
or would “freak out” (Cavan 115). When someone took bad LSD, freak out
is exactly what they would do and sometimes they never came back. Bad
LSD was so common that even at Woodstock people were having bad trips
and freaking out. Even with this bad LSD everywhere people still used
it, they went as far as to make a religion out of it. A man by the name
of Dr. Timothy Leary was a Harvard professor who had ideas about LSD.
He said “LSD is western yoga. The aim of all Eastern religion, like the
aim of LSD, is basically to get high; that is to expand your
consciousness and find ecstasy and revelation within” (This Fabulous
Century 84). Another preacher of the use of LSD was an author by the
name of Ken Keasey. He traveled around the United States in a
psychedelic bus giving LSD to anyone and everyone who would take it.
Hippies were notorious for there out of the ordinary music. Many
Hippies were actually musicians themselves. Hippies used music as a way
to get their thoughts and ideas out. One of the most influential
musicians of the time was Bob Dylan. The lyrics of the song “Like
Rolling Stone” express the thoughts of many Hippies. They say:
How does it feel; How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?(Harris 69)
These lyrics expressed Dylan’s personal thoughts to what was happening
to him. He did feel “like a rolling stone” and so did his peers. His
simple but meaningful lyrics are what made him so popular and
successful. Many Hippies considered Dylan as a spokesman for their
beliefs. Drugs were also themes in many bands songs. Jimmy Hendrix’s
“Purple Haze” is about marijuana. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” is a
Beatles song about LSD. The Grateful Dead also took part in the fad
with their song “Casey Jones,” with lyrics such as “High on Cocaine”
and “You better watch your Speed.”
Besides their music and drugs Hippies did some out of the
ordinary things that were as shocking as their day-glo clothing. It was
common for hippies in the Haight Ashbury District to put a nickel in a
parking meter, then set up blankets and lie down in the space for a
half hour(Stern 161). This was unusual behavior so it is not strange
that the public did not take them seriously. “People thought Hippies
were the next funniest thing to the Three Stooges”(Stern 161).
Television shows like the successful Laugh In made fun of this counter
culture. Movies made fun of them as well. One called the Presidents
Analyst was extremely successful. The movie was dedicated “to the life,
liberty, and pursuit of happenings,” and was based on the Hippies wacky
antics. People all over the America were outraged at how strange these
people were and at the same time were in tears at how funny they were.
Even though from afar the Hippies were entertaining, in reality
they were devastating the American family and were tearing the country
in two. While the adults of the time were conservative, hard working,
and caring mainly about money, the Hippies didn’t care about any of
that. They were party animals. Many didn’t work unless it was
completely necessary, they never went to church nor did they care for
saving their virginity until after they were married. They were
anything but conservative and their families rejected them for it.
Hippies easy going attitudes and fun and games lifestyles were
put away when the topic of politics came up. Indubitably the instigator
for their existence, politics played a huge role in their lives. Having
strongest feelings for the Vietnam War and for the Civil Rights
Movement, the Hippies made their beliefs known to the world. They did
this in many ways including musical shows, pacifist folk songs, and
through peaceful sit-ins(This Fabulous Century 206). But none of their
actions were more seen and heard of then their protests and rallies.
The Hippies were aware that the war was being lost and that thousands
of American soldiers were dying. They took it upon themselves the make
their beliefs heard. They put together a protest larger then the ever
before. Once organized not just Hippies came, but students,
intellectuals, radicals, and citizens of all classes took part in it
(Harris 36). This protest was held in Washington DC in the heart of the
United States. 250,000 protesters gathered for one common goal. They
wanted their troops to come back home and for United States involvement
in the war to be ended. Through the years of the Vietnam War hundreds a
anti-war rallies were held. By the decades end protests seemed to have
done some good. Sixty five percent of all Americans had similar views
as the hippies(This Fabulous Century 206). They wanted their troops
back and that’s what they got in the 1969 when the President gave the
word to bring them back home.
Hippies had other feelings about racism and persecution. They
took part in the civil rights movement, just as they did in the for the
Vietnam troops. When President Kennedy tried to pass his Civil Rights
policies and they never went through, the Hippies were more aggravated
(Harris 8) Eventually some Hippies tried to make their colonies where
there was no racism and persecution. There were Hippie communes all
over the United States. Some communes believed that they were “fighting
against the white man’s perverted society of pollution ,war, and greed
(Stern 166). These communes didn’t get very popular and failed after a
few years. Hippies still fought for racial equality. Finally when the
1960’s were over new laws were put into action helping racial equality
which would not have happened without the Hippies.
During the 1960’s a radical group called the hippies shocked
America with their alternative lifestyle and radical beliefs. They were
young people who enjoyed life to its fullest. They used illegal drugs
and listened to rock and roll music. With their alternative beliefs and
practices they stunned America’s conservative middle class. Concerned
chiefly protesting the Vietnam War and with civil rights they made a
huge impact on the America and the world. Even today the effects of the
Hippie movement is still felt. They made huge advantages and set
examples for the youth of today and years to come.
Cavan, Sherry. Hippies Of The Haight. St.Louis: New Critics Press, Inc., 1972.
Harris, Nathaniel. The Sixties. London: Macdonald Education Ltd., 1975.
“Hippies” WorldBook Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM.
Stern, Jane and Michael. Sixties People. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1990.
This Fabulous Century. New York: Time-Life Books, 1970.
Outline Thesis: During the 1960’s a radical group called the Hippies shocked America with their alternative lifestyles and radical beliefs.
I. Who were the Hippies?
B. They gathered in the Haight Ashbury District
II. Their alternative lifestyles
A. Drugs and their influences
B. Music. and its influences
C. Their out of the ordinary antics
D. Effects on the family
III. Radical Beliefs
A. Protesting Vietnam
B. Protecting Civil Rights
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