Counterculture of the 1960s

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The peace sign, designed and first used in the United Kingdom in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, became a major symbol of the 1960s counterculture. In the United States and Canada, it became synonymous with opposition to the Vietnam War.

The counterculture of the 1960s refers to an anti-establishment cultural phenomenon that developed first in the United States and United Kingdom and spread throughout much of the Western world between the early 1960s and the early 1970s. The movement gained momentum as the African-American Civil Rights Movement continued to grow, and became revolutionary with the expansion of the US government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam.[1][2][3]

Several factors distinguished the counterculture of the 1960s from the authority-opposition movements of previous eras. The post-war "baby boom"[4][5] resulted in an unprecedented number of young, affluent, and potentially disaffected young people as prospective participants in a rethinking of the direction of American and other democratic societies.[6] As the 1960s progressed, widespread tensions developed in society that tended to flow along generational lines regarding the war in Vietnam, race relations, human sexuality, women's rights, traditional modes of authority, experimentation with psychoactive drugs, and differing interpretations of the American Dream. New cultural forms emerged, including the pop music of the British band the Beatles and the concurrent rise of hippie culture. As the era unfolded, a dynamic youth subculture which emphasized creativity, experimentation and new incarnations of bohemian lifestyles emerged. In addition to the trendsetting Beatles, many other creative artists and thinkers, within and across many disciplines, contributed to the counterculture movement.

In the broadest sense, 1960s counterculture grew from a confluence of events, issues, circumstances, and technological developments which served as intellectual and social catalysts for exceptionally rapid change during the era.


Post-war geopolitics[edit]

Underwater atomic test "Baker", Bikini Atoll, Pacific Ocean, 1946.

The Cold War between communist states and capitalist states involved espionage on a global scale,[7][8] along with political and military interference in the internal affairs of less powerful nations. Poor outcomes from some of these activities set the stage for disillusionment with, and distrust of, post-war governments.[9] Examples included harsh Soviet Union responses to popular anti-communist uprisings, such as the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Czechoslovakia's Prague Spring in 1968, and the botched US Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961. In the US, President Dwight D. Eisenhower's initial deception[10] over the nature of the 1960 U-2 incident resulted in the government being caught in a blatant lie at the highest levels, and created a backdrop for a growing distrust of authority among many who came of age during the period.[11][12] The Partial Test Ban Treaty divided the establishment within the US along political and military lines.[13][14][15] Internal political disagreements concerning treaty obligations in Southeast Asia (SEATO), especially in Vietnam, and debate as to how other communist insurgencies should be challenged, also created a rift of dissent within the establishment.[16][17][18] The Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in October 1962, was largely fomented by duplicitous speech and actions on the part of the Soviet Union.[19][20] The assassination of US President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, and the attendant theories concerning the event, led to further diminished trust in government, including among younger people.[21][22][23]

Free Speech activist Mario Savio on the steps of Sproul Hall, University of California, Berkeley, 1966.

Sociological issues & calls to action[edit]

Many sociological issues fueled the growth of the larger counterculture movement. One was a nonviolent movement in the United States seeking to resolve Constitutional civil rights illegalities, especially regarding general racial segregation, longstanding disfranchisement of blacks in the South by white-dominated state government, and racial discrimination in jobs and in housing in the North.

On college and university campuses, student activists fought for the right to exercise their basic Constitutional rights, especially freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.[24]

Many counterculture activists became aware of the plight of the poor, and community organizers fought for the funding of anti-poverty programs, particularly within inner city areas in the United States.[25][26]

External video
Bodies Upon The Gears Speech on YouTube

Environmentalism grew from a greater understanding of the ongoing damage caused by industrialization, resultant pollution, and the misguided use of chemicals such as pesticides in well-meaning efforts to improve the quality of life for the rapidly growing population.[27] Authors such as Rachel Carson played key roles in developing a new awareness among the global population of the fragility of planet earth, despite resistance from elements of the establishment in many countries.[28]

The need to address minority rights of women, gays, the handicapped, and many other neglected constituencies within the larger population came to the forefront as an increasing number of primarily younger people broke free from the constraints of 1950s orthodoxy in a desire to create a more inclusive and tolerant social landscape.[29]

The availability of new and more effective forms of birth control was a key underpinning of the sexual revolution. The notion of "recreational sex" without the threat of unwanted pregnancy radically changed the social dynamic and permitted both women and men much greater freedom in the selection of sexual lifestyles outside the confines of traditional marriage.[30] With this change in attitude, by the 1990s the ratio of children born out of wedlock rose from 5% to 25% for Whites and from 25% to 66% for African-Americans.[31]

Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington.

Emergent media[edit]


For those born after World War II, the emergence of television as a source of entertainment and information - as well as the associated massive expansion of consumerism afforded by post-war affluence and encouraged by TV advertising - were key components in youthful disillusionment and the formulation of new social behaviours, even as ad agencies heavily courted the "hip" youth market.[32] In the US, nearly real-time TV news coverage of the civil rights era's Birmingham Campaign, the "Bloody Sunday" event of the Selma to Montgomery marches, and graphic news footage from Vietnam brought horrifying, moving images of the bloody reality of armed conflict into living rooms for the first time.

New cinema[edit]

The breakdown of enforcement of the US Hays Code[33] concerning censorship in motion picture production, the use of new forms of artistic expression in European and Asian cinema, and the advent of modern production values heralded a new era of art-house, pornographic, and US mainstream film production, distribution, and exhibition. The end of censorship resulted in a complete reformation of the western film industry. With new-found artistic freedom, a generation of exceptionally talented New Wave film makers working across all genres brought realistic depictions of previously prohibited subject matter to neighborhood theater screens for the first time, even as Hollywood film studios were still considered a part of the establishment by some elements of the counterculture.

New radio[edit]

By the later 1960s, previously under-regarded FM radio replaced AM radio as the focal point for the ongoing explosion of Rock and Roll music, and became the nexus of youth-oriented news and advertising for the counterculture generation.[34][35]

A family watches television, c. 1958

Changing lifestyles[edit]

Communes, collectives, and intentional communities regained popularity during this era. Early communities, such as the Hog Farm in the United States and Findhorn in Europe were established as straightforward agrarian attempts to return to the land and live free of interference from outside influences. As the era progressed, many people established and populated new communities in response to not only disillusionment with standard community forms, but also dissatisfaction with certain elements of the counterculture itself. Some of these self-sustaining communities have been credited with the birth and propagation of the international Green Movement.

The emergence of an interest in expanded spiritual consciousness, yoga, occult practices and increased human potential helped to shift views on organized religion during the era. In 1957, 69% of US residents polled by Gallup said religion was increasing in influence. By the late 1960s, polls indicated less than 20% still held that belief.[36]

The "Generation Gap," or the inevitable perceived divide in worldview between the old and young, was perhaps never greater than during the counterculture era.[37] A large measure of the generational chasm of the 1960s and early 1970s was born of rapidly evolving fashion and hairstyle trends that were readily adopted by the young, but often misunderstood and ridiculed by the old. These included the wearing of very long hair by men, the wearing of natural or "Afro" hairstyles by Blacks, the donning of revealing clothing by women in public, and the mainstreaming of the psychedelic clothing and regalia of the short-lived hippie culture. Ultimately, practical and comfortable casual apparel, namely updated forms of T-shirts (often tie-dyed, or emblazoned with political or advertising statements), and Levi Strauss-branded blue denim jeans became the enduring uniform of the generation. The fashion dominance of the counterculture effectively ended with the rise of the Disco and Punk Rock eras in the later 1970s, even as the global popularity of T-shirts and Levis has continued to grow.

Emergent middle-class drug culture[edit]

In the western world, the ongoing criminal legal status of the recreational drug industry was instrumental in the formation of an anti-establishment social dynamic by those coming of age during the counterculture era. The explosion of marijuana use during the era, in large part by students on fast-expanding college campuses,[38] created an attendant need for increasing numbers of people to conduct their personal affairs in secret in the procurement and use of banned substances. The classification of marijuana as a narcotic, and the attachment of severe criminal penalties for its use, drove the act of smoking marijuana, and experimentation with substances in general, deep underground. Many began to live largely clandestine lives because of their choice to use such drugs and substances, fearing retribution from their governments.[39][40]

Anti-war protesters

Law enforcement[edit]

The often violent confrontations between college students (and other activists) and law enforcement officials became one of the hallmarks of the era. Many younger people began to show deep distrust of police, and terms such as "fuzz" and "pig" as derogatory euphemisms for police reappeared, and became key words within the counterculture lexicon. The distrust of police was based not only on fear of police brutality during political protests, but also on generalized police corruption - especially police manufacture of false evidence, and outright entrapment, in drug cases. The social tension between the counterculture and law enforcement reached the breaking point in many notable cases: the Columbia University protests of 1968 in New York City, the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, the arrest and imprisonment of John Sinclair in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Kent State shootings at Kent State University in Ohio.

The Vietnam War[edit]

The Vietnam War, and the protracted national divide between supporters and opponents of the war, were arguably the most important factors contributing to the rise of the larger counterculture movement.

Jerry Rubin, University at Buffalo, March 10, 1970.

The widely accepted assertion that anti-war opinion was held only among the young is a myth,[41][42] but enormous war protests consisting of thousands of mostly younger people in every major US city effectively united millions against the war, and against the war policy that prevailed under five congresses and during two presidential administrations.

The counterculture era essentially commenced in earnest with the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. It ended with the termination of US combat military involvement in the communist insurgencies of Southeast Asia and the end of the military draft in 1973, and ultimately with the resignation of disgraced President Richard M. Nixon in August, 1974.

Many key movements were born of, or were advanced within, the counterculture of the 1960s. Each movement is relevant to the larger era. The most important stand alone, irrespective of the larger counterculture.[43]

In Europe[edit]

Revolutionary poster, France: "May 1968: The beginning of a prolonged struggle"

Provo was a Dutch counterculture cultural movement in the mid-1960s that focused on provoking violent responses from authorities using non-violent bait. One manifestation of this was the French general strike that took place in Paris in May 1968, and which nearly toppled the French government. Another was the German Student Movement of the 1960s. Kommune 1 or K1 was the first politically motivated commune in Germany. It was created on January 12, 1967, in West Berlin and finally dissolved in November 1969. During its entire existence, Kommune 1 was infamous for its bizarre staged events that fluctuated between satire and provocation. These events served as inspiration for the "Sponti" movement and other leftist groups. In the late summer of 1968, the commune moved into a deserted factory on Stephanstraße in order to reorient. This second phase of Kommune 1 was characterized by sex, music, and drugs. All of a sudden, the commune was receiving visitors from all over the world, among them Jimi Hendrix, who turned up one morning in the bedroom of Kommune 1.[44] The underground was a countercultural movement in the United Kingdom linked to the underground culture in the United States and associated with the hippie phenomenon. Its primary focus was around Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill in London. It generated its own magazines and newspapers, bands, clubs and alternative lifestyle, associated with cannabis and LSD use and a strong socio-political revolutionary agenda to create an alternative society.

Oz number 31 cover. Oz was first published as a satirical humour magazine between 1963 and 1969 in Sydney, Australia, and, in its second and better known incarnation, became a "psychedelic hippy" magazine from 1967 to 1973 in London. Strongly identified as part of the underground press, it was the subject of two celebrated obscenity trials, one in Australia in 1964 and the other in the United Kingdom in 1971

The counterculture movement took hold in Western Europe, with London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome and West Berlin rivaling San Francisco and New York as counterculture centers. In Central Europe, young people adopted the song "San Francisco" as an anthem for freedom, and it was widely played during Czechoslovakia's 1968 "Prague Spring", a premature attempt to break away from Soviet repression. In reaction to Israel's Six-Day War, the Kremlin decided to force Jewish minorities in all Soviet-dominated states to emigrate. This resulted in riots in Warsaw, Poland and several other major cities.

As the newly emergent youth class began to criticize the established social order, new theories about cultural and personal identity began to spread, and traditional non-Western ideas - particularly with regard to religion, social organization and spiritual enlightenment - were more frequently embraced.

In Latin America[edit]

Three radical icons of the sixties. Encounter between Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Cuba, in 1960

In Mexico, rock music was tied into the youth revolt of the 1960s. Mexico City, as well as northern cities such as Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Juárez, and Tijuana, were exposed to US music. Many Mexican rock stars became involved in the counterculture. The three-day Festival Rock y Ruedas de Avándaro, held in 1971, was organized in the valley of Avándaro near the city of Toluca, a town neighboring Mexico City, and became known as "The Mexican Woodstock". Nudity, drug use, and the presence of the US flag scandalized conservative Mexican society to such an extent that the government clamped down on rock and roll performances for the rest of the decade. The festival, marketed as proof of Mexico's modernization, was never expected to attract the masses it did, and the government had to evacuate stranded attendees en masse at the end. This occurred during the era of President Luis Echeverría, an extremely repressive era in Mexican history. Anything that could possibly be connected to the counterculture or student protests was prohibited from being broadcast on public airwaves, with the government fearing a repeat of the student protests of 1968. Few bands survived the prohibition; though the ones that did, like Three Souls in My Mind (now El Tri), remained popular due in part to their adoption of Spanish for their lyrics, but mostly as a result of a dedicated underground following. While Mexican rock groups were eventually able to perform publicly by the mid-1980s, the ban prohibiting tours of Mexico by foreign acts lasted until 1991.

The Cordobazo was a civil uprising in the city of Córdoba, Argentina, in the end of May 1969, during the military dictatorship of General Juan Carlos Onganía, which occurred a few days after the Rosariazo, and a year after the French May '68. Contrary to previous protests, the Cordobazo did not correspond to previous struggles, headed by Marxist workers' leaders, but associated students and workers in the same struggle against the military government.[45]


US Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN), Antiwar candidate for President in 1968.

Civil Rights Movement[edit]

The US Civil Rights Movement, a key element of the larger Counterculture movement, involved the use of applied nonviolence to assure that equal rights guaranteed under the US Constitution would apply to all citizens. Many states illegally denied many of these rights to African-Americans, and this was successfully addressed in the early and mid-1960s in several major nonviolent movements.

Free Speech Movement[edit]

Much of the 1960s counterculture originated on college campuses. The 1964 Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, which had its roots in the Civil Rights Movement of the US South, was one early example. At Berkeley a group of students began to identify themselves as having interests as a class that were at odds with the interests and practices of the University and its corporate sponsors. Other rebellious young people, who were not students, also contributed to the Free Speech Movement.[46]

New Left[edit]

The New Left is a term used in different countries to describe left-wing movements that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. They differed from earlier leftist movements that had been more oriented towards labour activism, and instead adopted social activism. The US "New Left" is associated with college campus mass protests and radical leftist movements. The British "New Left" was an intellectually driven movement which attempted to correct the perceived errors of "Old Left" parties in the post-World War II period. The movements began to wind down in the 1970s, when activists either committed themselves to party projects, developed social justice organizations, moved into identity politics or alternative lifestyles, or became politically inactive.

Herbert Marcuse, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory, was an influential libertarian socialist thinker on the radical student movements of the era[47] philosopher of the New Left[48]

The emergence of the New Left in the 1950s and 1960s led to a revival of interest in libertarian socialism.[49] The New Left's critique of the Old Left's authoritarianism was associated with a strong interest in personal liberty, autonomy (see the thinking of Cornelius Castoriadis) and led to a rediscovery of older socialist traditions, such as left communism, council communism, and the Industrial Workers of the World. The New Left also led to a revival of anarchism. Journals like Radical America and Black Mask in America, Solidarity, Big Flame and Democracy & Nature, succeeded by The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy,[50] in the UK, introduced a range of left libertarian ideas to a new generation. Social ecology, autonomism and, more recently, participatory economics (parecon), and Inclusive Democracy emerged from this.

A surge of popular interest in anarchism occurred in western nations during the 1960s and 1970s.[51] Anarchism was influential in the Counterculture of the 1960s[52][53][54] and anarchists actively participated in the late sixties students and workers revolts.[55] During the IX Congress of the Italian Anarchist Federation in Carrara in 1965, a group decided to split off from this organization and created the Gruppi di Iniziativa Anarchica. In the seventies, it was mostly composed of "veteran individualist anarchists with an of pacifism orientation, naturism, etc, ...".[56] In 1968 in Carrara, Italy the International of Anarchist Federations was founded during an international anarchist conference held there in 1968 by the three existing European federations of France, the Italian and the Iberian Anarchist Federation as well as the Bulgarian federation in French exile.[57][58] During the events of May 68 the anarchist groups active in France were Fédération anarchiste, Mouvement communiste libertaire, Union fédérale des anarchistes, Alliance ouvrière anarchiste], Union des groupes anarchistes communistes, Noir et Rouge, Confédération nationale du travail, Union anarcho-syndicaliste, Organisation révolutionnaire anarchiste, Cahiers socialistes libertaires, À contre-courant, La Révolution prolétarienne, and the publications close to Émile Armand.

The New Left in the United States also included anarchist, countercultural and hippie-related radical groups such as the Yippies who were led by Abbie Hoffman, The Diggers[59] and Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers. By late 1966, the Diggers opened free stores which simply gave away their stock, provided free food, distributed free drugs, gave away money, organized free music concerts, and performed works of political art.[60] The Diggers took their name from the original English Diggers led by Gerrard Winstanley[61] and sought to create a mini-society free of money and capitalism.[62] On the other hand the Yippies employed theatrical gestures, such as advancing a pig ("Pigasus the Immortal") as a candidate for President in 1968, to mock the social status quo.[63] They have been described as a highly theatrical, anti-authoritarian and anarchist[64] youth movement of "symbolic politics".[65] Since they were well known for street theater and politically themed pranks, many of the "old school" political left either ignored or denounced them. According to ABC News, "The group was known for street theater pranks and was once referred to as the 'Groucho Marxists'."[66]

Anti-war movement[edit]

In Trafalgar Square, London in 1958,[67] in an act of civil disobedience, 60,000-100,000 protesters made up of students and pacifists converged in what was to become the "ban the Bomb" demonstrations.[68]

Opposition to the Vietnam War began in 1964 on United States college campuses. Student activism became a dominant theme among the baby boomers, growing to include many other demographic groups. Exemptions and deferments for the middle and upper classes resulted in the induction of a disproportionate number of poor, working-class, and minority registrants. Countercultural books such as MacBird by Barbara Garson and much of the counterculture music encouraged a spirit of non-conformism and anti-establishmentarianism. By 1968, the year after a large march to the United Nations in New York City and a large protest at the Pentagon were undertaken, a majority of people in the country opposed the war.[69]

Anti-nuclear movement[edit]

A sign pointing to an old fallout shelter in New York City.

The application of nuclear technology, both as a source of energy and as an instrument of war, has been controversial.[70][71][72][73][74]

Scientists and diplomats have debated the nuclear weapons policy since before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.[75] The public became concerned about nuclear weapons testing from about 1954, following extensive nuclear testing in the Pacific. In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, about 50,000 women brought together by Women Strike for Peace marched in 60 cities in the United States to demonstrate against nuclear weapons.[76][77] In 1963, many countries ratified the Partial Test Ban Treaty which prohibited atmospheric nuclear testing.[78]

Some local opposition to nuclear power emerged in the early 1960s,[79] and in the late 1960s some members of the scientific community began to express their concerns.[80] In the early 1970s, there were large protests about a proposed nuclear power plant in Wyhl, Germany. The project was cancelled in 1975 and anti-nuclear success at Wyhl inspired opposition to nuclear power in other parts of Europe and North America.[81] Nuclear power became an issue of major public protest in the 1970s.[82]


The role of women as full-time homemakers in industrial society was challenged in 1963, when US feminist Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, giving momentum to the women's movement and influencing what many called Second-wave feminism. Other activists, such as Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis, either organized, influenced, or educated many of a younger generation of women to endorse and expand feminist thought. Feminism gained further currency within the protest movements of the late 1960s, as women in movements such as Students for a Democratic Society rebelled against the "support" role they had been consigned to within the then-male-led New Left, as well as against manifestations and statements of sexism within some radical groups. The 1970 pamphlet Women and Their Bodies, soon expanded into the 1971 book Our Bodies, Ourselves, was particularly influential in bringing about the new feminist consciousness.


The Cover of an early Whole Earth Catalog

The 1960s counterculture embraced a back-to-the-land ethic, and communes of the era often relocated to the country from cities. Influential books of the 1960s included Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb. Counterculture environmentalists were quick to grasp the implications of Ehrlich's writings on overpopulation, the Hubbert "peak oil" prediction, and more general concerns over pollution, litter, the environmental effects of the Vietnam War, automobile-dependent lifestyles, and nuclear energy. More broadly they saw that the dilemmas of energy and resource allocation would have implications for geo-politics, lifestyle, environment, and other dimensions of modern life. The "back to nature" theme was already prevalent in the counterculture by the time of the 1969 Woodstock festival, while the first Earth Day in 1970 was significant in bringing environmental concerns to the forefront of youth culture. At the start of the 1970s, counterculture-oriented publications like the Whole Earth Catalog and The Mother Earth News were popular, out of which emerged a back to the land movement. The 1960s and early 1970s counterculture were early adopters of practices such as recycling and organic farming long before they became mainstream. The counterculture interest in ecology progressed well into the 1970s: particularly influential were New Left eco-anarchist Murray Bookchin, Jerry Mander's criticism of the effects of television on society, Ernest Callenbach's novel Ecotopia, Edward Abbey's fiction and non-fiction writings, and E.F. Schumacher's economics book Small is Beautiful.

Gay liberation movement[edit]

The Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, New York City, September, 1969.

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. This is frequently cited as the first instance in US history when people in the gay community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and became the defining event that marked the start of the Gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.



After the January 14, 1967 Human Be-In in San Francisco organized by artist Michael Bowen, the media's attention on culture was fully activated.[83] In 1967 Scott McKenzie's rendition of the song "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" brought as many as 100,000 young people from all over the world to celebrate San Francisco's "Summer of Love." While the song had originally been written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas to promote the June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, it became an instant hit worldwide (#4 in the United States, #1 in Europe) and quickly transcended its original purpose.

San Francisco's flower children, also called "hippies" by local newspaper columnist Herb Caen, adopted new styles of dress, experimented with psychedelic drugs, lived communally and developed a vibrant music scene. When people returned home from "The Summer of Love" these styles and behaviors spread quickly from San Francisco and Berkeley to many US and Canadian cities and European capitals. Some hippies formed communes to live as far outside of the established system as possible. This aspect of the counterculture rejected active political engagement with the mainstream and, following the dictate of Timothy Leary to "Turn on, tune in, drop out", hoped to change society by dropping out of it. Looking back on his own life (as a Harvard professor) prior to 1960, Leary interpreted it to have been that of "an anonymous institutional employee who drove to work each morning in a long line of commuter cars and drove home each night and drank martinis ... like several million middle-class, liberal, intellectual robots."

As members of the hippie movement grew older and moderated their lives and their views, and especially after US involvement in the Vietnam War ended in the mid-1970s, the counterculture was largely absorbed by the mainstream, leaving a lasting impact on philosophy, morality, music, art, alternative health and diet, lifestyle and fashion.

In addition to a new style of clothing, philosophy, art, music and various views on anti-war, and anti-establishment, some hippies decided to turn away from modern society and re-settle on ranches, or communes. The very first of communes in the United States was a 7-acre land in Southern Colorado, named Drop City. According to Timothy Miller,

Drop City brought together most of the themes that had been developing in other recent communities-anarchy, pacifism, sexual freedom, rural isolation, interest in drugs, art-and wrapped them flamboyantly into a commune not quite like any that had gone before[84]

Many of the inhabitants practiced acts like reusing trash and recycled materials to build Geodesic domes for shelter and other various purposes; using various drugs like marijuana and LSD, and creating various pieces of Drop Art. After the initial success of Drop City, visitors would take the idea of communes and spread them. Another commune called "The Ranch" was very similar to the culture of Drop City, as well as new concepts like giving children of the commune extensive freedoms known as "children's rights".[85]

Marijuana, LSD, and other recreational drugs[edit]

During the 1960s, this 2nd group of casual LSD users evolved and expanded into a subculture that extolled the mystical and religious symbolism often engendered by the drug's powerful effects, and advocated its use as a method of raising consciousness. The personalities associated with the subculture, gurus such as Dr. Timothy Leary and psychedelic rock musicians such as the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Country Joe and the Fish, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane and the Beatles soon attracted a great deal of publicity, generating further interest in LSD.

The popularization of LSD outside of the medical world was hastened when individuals such as Ken Kesey participated in drug trials and liked what they saw. Tom Wolfe wrote a widely read account of these early days of LSD's entrance into the non-academic world in his book The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, which documented the cross-country, acid-fueled voyage of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters on the psychedelic bus "Furthur" and the Pranksters' later 'Acid Test' LSD parties. In 1965, Sandoz laboratories stopped its still legal shipments of LSD to the United States for research and psychiatric use, after a request from the US government concerned about its use. By April 1966, LSD use had become so widespread that Time Magazine warned about its dangers.[86] In December 1966, the exploitation film Hallucination Generation was released.[87] This was followed by The Trip (film) in 1967 and Psych-Out in 1968.

Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters[edit]

Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters helped shape the developing character of the 1960s counterculture when they embarked on a cross-country voyage during the summer of 1964 in a psychedelic school bus named "Furthur." Beginning in 1959, Kesey had volunteered as a research subject for medical trials financed by the CIA's MK ULTRA project. These trials tested the effects of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and other psychedelic drugs. After the medical trials, Kesey continued experimenting on his own, and involved many close friends; collectively they became known as "The Merry Pranksters." The Pranksters visited Harvard LSD proponent Timothy Leary at his Millbrook, New York retreat, and experimentation with LSD and other psychedelic drugs, primarily as a means for internal reflection and personal growth, became a constant during the Prankster trip.

The Pranksters created a direct link between the 1950s Beat Generation and the 1960s psychedelic scene; the bus was driven by Beat icon Neal Cassady, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was on board for a time, and they dropped in on Cassady's friend, Beat author Jack Kerouac - though Kerouac declined to participate in the Prankster scene. After the Pranksters returned to California, they popularized the use of LSD at so-called "Acid Tests", which initially were held at Kesey's home in La Honda, California, and then at many other West Coast venues.

Other psychedelics[edit]

Experimentation with LSD, peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, MDA, marijuana, and other psychedelic drugs became a major component of 1960s counterculture, influencing philosophy, art, music and styles of dress. Jim DeRogatis wrote that peyote, a small cactus containing the psychedelic alkaloid mescaline, was widely available in Austin, Texas, a countercultural hub, as early as 1961.[88]

Sexual revolution[edit]

The sexual revolution(also known as a time of "sexual liberation") was a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the Western world from the 1960s to the 1980s.[89] Sexual liberation included increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships (primarily marriage).[90] Contraception and the pill, public nudity, the normalization of premarital sex, homosexuality and alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion all followed.[91][92]

Alternative media[edit]

Underground newspapers sprang up in most cities and college towns, serving to define and communicate the range of phenomena that defined the counterculture: radical political opposition to "The Establishment", colorful experimental (and often explicitly drug-influenced) approaches to art, music and cinema, and uninhibited indulgence in sex and drugs as a symbol of freedom. The papers also often included comic strips, from which the underground comix were an outgrowth.

Alternative disc sports (Frisbee)[edit]

In the 1960s, as numbers of young people became alienated from social norms, they resisted and looked for alternatives. They formed what became known as the counterculture. The forms of escape and resistance manifest in many ways including social activism, alternative lifestyles, experimental living through foods, dress, music and alternative recreational activities, including that of throwing a Frisbee.[93][94] Organized disc sports began with promotional efforts from Wham-O and Irwin Toy (Canada), a few tournaments and professionals using Frisbee show tours to perform at universities, fairs and sporting events. Disc sports such as freestyle, double disc court, guts, disc ultimate and disc golf became this sports first events.[95][96]

Avant-garde art and anti-art[edit]

The Situationist International was a restricted group of international revolutionaries founded in 1957, and which had its peak in its influence on the unprecedented general wildcat strikes of May 1968 in France. With their ideas rooted in Marxism and the 20th-century European artistic avant-gardes, they advocated experiences of life being alternative to those admitted by the capitalist order, for the fulfillment of human primitive desires and the pursuing of a superior passional quality. For this purpose they suggested and experimented with the construction of situations, namely the setting up of environments favorable for the fulfillment of such desires. Using methods drawn from the arts, they developed a series of experimental fields of study for the construction of such situations, like unitary urbanism and psychogeography. They fought against the main obstacle on the fulfillment of such superior passional living, identified by them in advanced capitalism. Their theoretical work peaked on the highly influential book The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord. Debord argued in 1967 that spectacular features like mass media and advertising have a central role in an advanced capitalist society, which is to show a fake reality in order to mask the real capitalist degradation of human life. Also Raoul Vaneigem wrote The Revolution of Everyday Life which takes the field of "everyday life" as the ground upon which communication and participation can occur, or, as is more commonly the case, be perverted and abstracted into pseudo-forms.

Fluxus - a name taken from a Latin word meaning "to flow" - is an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. They have been active in Neo-Dada noise music, visual art, literature, urban planning, architecture, and design. Fluxus is often described as intermedia, a term coined by Fluxus artist Dick Higgins in a famous 1966 essay. Fluxus encouraged a "do-it-yourself" aesthetic, and valued simplicity over complexity. Like Dada before it, Fluxus included a strong current of anti-commercialism and an anti-art sensibility, disparaging the conventional market-driven art world in favor of an artist-centered creative practice. As Fluxus artist Robert Filliou wrote, however, Fluxus differed from Dada in its richer set of aspirations, and the positive social and communitarian aspirations of Fluxus far outweighed the anti-art tendency that also marked the group.

In the 1960s, the Dada-influenced art group Black Mask declared that revolutionary art should be "an integral part of life, as in primitive society, and not an appendage to wealth."[97] Black Mask disrupted cultural events in New York by giving made up flyers of art events to the homeless with the lure of free drinks.[98] After, the Motherfuckers grew out of a combination of Black Mask and another group called Angry Arts. Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers (often referred to as simply "the Motherfuckers", or UAW/MF) was an anarchist affinity group based in New York City.


A small part of the crowd of 400,000, after the rain, Woodstock, United States, August 1969

"The 60's were a leap in human consciousness. Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, Mother Teresa, they led a revolution of conscience. the Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix created revolution and evolution themes. The music was like Dalí, with many colors and revolutionary ways. The youth of today must go there to find themselves."

- Carlos Santana[99]

During the early 1960s, Britain's new wave of musicians gained popularity and fame in the United States. Artists such as the Beatles paved the way for their compatriots to enter the US market.[100] The Beatles themselves were influenced by many artists, among them US singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, who was a lyrical inspiration as well as their introduction to marijuana.[101] Dylan's early career as a protest singer had been inspired by artists like Pete Seeger[102] and his hero Woody Guthrie.[103] Other folksingers, like Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary, took the songs of the era to new audiences and public recognition.[104]

The music of the 1960s moved towards an electric, psychedelic version of rock, thanks largely to Bob Dylan's decision to play an electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.[105] The newly popularized electric sound of rock was then built upon and molded into psychedelic rock by artists like The 13th Floor Elevators[106] and British bands Pink Floyd and the Beatles.[107] The Beach Boys' 1966 album Pet Sounds also paved the way for later hippie acts, with Brian Wilson's writing interpreted as a "plea for love and understanding."[108] Pet Sounds served as a major source of inspiration for other contemporary acts, most notably directly inspiring the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The single Good Vibrations soared to number one globally, completely changing the perception of what a record could be. It was during this period that the highly anticipated album Smile was to be released. However, the project collapsed and The Beach Boys released a downgraded version called Smiley Smile, which failed to make a big commercial impact but was also highly influential, most notably on The Who's Pete Townshend.

The Beatles went on to become the most prominent commercial exponents of the "psychedelic revolution" (e.g., Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour) in the late 1960s.[109] Meanwhile in the United States, bands that exemplified the counterculture were becoming huge commercial and mainstream successes. These included The Mamas & the Papas (If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears), Big Brother and the Holding Company (Cheap Thrills), Jimi Hendrix (Are You Experienced?), Jefferson Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow), The Doors and Sly and the Family Stone (Stand!).[110] Bands and other musicians, such as The Grateful Dead, Phil Ochs, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Melanie, Frank Zappa, Santana, and the Blues Project were considered key to the counterculture movement.

While the hippie scene was born in California,[111] an edgier scene emerged in New York City[112] that put more emphasis on avant-garde and art music. Bands such as The Velvet Underground came out of this underground music scene, which was predominantly centered at Andy Warhol's legendary Factory. The Velvet Underground supplied the music for the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a series of multimedia events staged by Warhol and his collaborators in 1966 and 1967. The Velvet Underground's lyrics were considered risqué for the era, since they discussed sexual fetishism, transgender identities, and the use of drugs associated with Warhol's Factory and its superstars.[113]

The Jimi Hendrix Experience performs for the Dutch television show Fenklup in March, 1967.

Detroit's MC5 also came out of the underground rock music scene of the late 1960s. They introduced a more aggressive evolution of garage rock which was often fused with sociopolitical and countercultural lyrics of the era, such as in the song "Motor City Is Burning" (a John Lee Hooker cover adapting the story of the Detroit Race Riot of 1943 to the Detroit riot of 1967). MC5 had ties to radical leftist organizations such as "Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers" and John Sinclair's White Panther Party,[114] and MC5 performed a lengthy set before the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where an infamous riot subsequently broke out between police and students protesting the Vietnam War and the recent assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.[115] MC5, The Stooges and the aforementioned Velvet Underground, are now seen as an influence on the protopunk sound that would lead to punk rock and heavy metal music in the late 1970s.[116]

Another hotbed of the 1960s counterculture was Austin, Texas, with two of the era's legendary music venues-the Vulcan Gas Company and the Armadillo World Headquarters-and musical talent like Janis Joplin, the 13th Floor Elevators, Shiva's Headband, the Conqueroo, and, later, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Austin was also home to a large New Left activist movement, one of the earliest underground papers, The Rag, and cutting edge graphic artists like Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers creator Gilbert Shelton, underground comix pioneer Jack Jackson (Jaxon), and surrealist armadillo artist Jim Franklin.[117]

The 1960s was also an era of rock festivals, which played an important role in spreading the counterculture across the US.[118] The Monterey Pop Festival, which launched Jimi Hendrix' career in the US, was one of the first of these festivals.[119] Britain's 1968–1970 Isle of Wight Festivals drew big names such as The Who, The Doors, Joni Mitchell, Hendrix, Dylan, and others.[120] The 1969 Woodstock Festival in New York state became a symbol of the movement,[121] although the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival drew a larger crowd.[122] However, many felt the era came to an abrupt end with the infamous Altamont Free Concert held by The Rolling Stones in which heavy-handed security from the Hells Angels resulted in the stabbing of an audience member as the show descended into chaos.[123]

The Doors performing for Danish television in 1968

As the psychedelic revolution progressed, lyrics grew more complex, (such as Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit"[124]). Long-playing albums enabled artists to make more in-depth statements than could be made in just a single song (such as the Mothers of Invention's satirical Freak Out![125]). Even the rules governing single songs were stretched, and singles lasting longer than three minutes emerged, such as Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," and Iron Butterfly's 17-minute long "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.".[105]

The 1960s saw the protest song gain a sense of political self-importance, with Phil Ochs's "I Ain't Marching Anymore" and Country Joe and the Fish's "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die-Rag" among the many anti-war anthems that were important to the era.[122]


The Counterculture Revolution was affected by cinema. Films like Bonnie and Clyde struck a chord with the youth as "the alienation of the young in the 1960s was comparable to the director's image of the 1930s".[126] Films of this time also focused on the changes happening in the world. Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969) focused on the counterculture of the time.[127] Medium Cool portrayed the 1968 Democratic Convention alongside the 1968 Chicago police riots which has led to it being labeled as "a fusion of cinema-vérité and political radicalism".[128] One film-studio attempt to cash in on the hippie trend was 1968's Psych-Out,[129] which is in contrast to the film version of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant which some say portrayed the generation as "doomed".[130] The music of the era was represented by films such as 1970s Woodstock, a documentary of the music festival.[131]

In France the New Wave was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, influenced by Italian Neorealism and classical Hollywood cinema. Although never a formally organized movement, the New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of classical cinematic form and their spirit of youthful iconoclasm and is an example of European art cinema.[132] Many also engaged in their work with the social and political upheavals of the era, making their radical experiments with editing, visual style and narrative part of a general break with the conservative paradigm.


In his 1986 essay "From Satori to Silicon Valley",[133] cultural historian Theodore Roszak pointed out that Apple Computer emerged from within the West Coast counterculture. Roszak outlines the Apple computer's development, and the evolution of 'the two Steves' (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, the Apple's developers) into businessmen. Like them, many early computing and networking pioneers - after discovering LSD and roaming the campuses of UC Berkeley, Stanford, and MIT in the late 1960s and early 1970s - would emerge from this caste of social "misfits" to shape the modern world.

Religion and spirituality[edit]

The Principia Discordia is the founding text of Discordianism written by Greg Hill (Malaclypse the Younger) and Kerry Wendell Thornley (Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst). It was originally published under the title "Principia Discordia or How The West Was Lost" in a limited edition of five copies in 1965. The title, literally meaning "Discordant Principles", is in keeping with the tendency of Latin to prefer hypotactic grammatical arrangements. In English, one would expect the title to be "Principles of Discord."[134]

Many hippies rejected mainstream organized religion in favor of a more personal spiritual experience, often drawing on indigenous and folk beliefs. If they adhered to mainstream faiths, hippies were likely to embrace Buddhism, Unitarian Universalism, Hinduism and the restorationist Christianity of the Jesus Movement. Some hippies embraced neo-paganism, especially Wicca.[135]

In his 1991 book, Hippies and American Values, Timothy Miller described the hippie ethos as essentially a "religious movement" whose goal was to transcend the limitations of mainstream religious institutions. "Like many dissenting religions, the hippies were enormously hostile to the religious institutions of the dominant culture, and they tried to find new and adequate ways to do the tasks the dominant religions failed to perform."[136] In his seminal, contemporaneous work, The Hippie Trip, author Lewis Yablonsky notes that those who were most respected in hippie settings were the spiritual leaders, the so-called "high priests" who emerged during that era.[137]

One such hippie "high priest" was San Francisco State University Professor Stephen Gaskin. Beginning in 1966, Gaskin's "Monday Night Class" eventually outgrew the lecture hall, and attracted 1,500 hippie followers in an open discussion of spiritual values, drawing from Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu teachings. In 1970 Gaskin founded a Tennessee community called The Farm, and he still lists his religion as "Hippie."[138][139][140]

Recording "Give Peace a Chance". Left to right: Rosemary Leary (face not visible), Tommy Smothers (with back to camera), John Lennon, Timothy Leary, Yoko Ono, Judy Marcioni and Paul Williams, June 1, 1969.

Timothy Leary was an American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. On September 19, 1966, Leary founded the League for Spiritual Discovery, a religion declaring LSD as its holy sacrament, in part as an unsuccessful attempt to maintain legal status for the use of LSD and other psychedelics for the religion's adherents based on a "freedom of religion" argument. The Psychedelic Experience was the inspiration for John Lennon's song "Tomorrow Never Knows" in The Beatles' album Revolver.[141] He published a pamphlet in 1967 called Start Your Own Religion to encourage just that (see below under "writings") and was invited to attend the January 14, 1967 Human Be-In a gathering of 30,000 hippies in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park In speaking to the group, he coined the famous phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out".[142]

The english magician Aleister Crowley became an influential icon to the new alternative spiritual movements of the decade as well as for rock musicians. The Beatles included him as one of the many figures on the cover sleeve of their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band while Jimmy Page, the guitarist and co-founder of 1970s rock band Led Zeppelin was fascinated by Crowley, and owned some of his clothing, manuscripts and ritual objects, and during the 1970s bought Boleskine House, which also appears in the band's movie The Song Remains the Same. On the back cover of the Doors 13 album, Jim Morrison and the other members of the Doors are shown posing with a bust of Aleister Crowley. Timothy Leary openly acknoledged the inspiration of Aleister Crowley.[143] In the 1960s Anton LaVey, who was also influenced by Crowley, formed a group called the Order of the Trapezoid, which later became the governing body of the Church of Satan.[144][145] The Church of Satan was established at the Black House in San Francisco, California, on Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, by Anton Szandor LaVey, who was the Church's High Priest until his death in 1997.[146] The Church of Satan was the subject of a number of books, magazine and newspaper articles during the 1960s and 1970s. It is also the subject of a documentary, Satanis (1970).


The legacy of the Counterculture is still actively contested in debates that are sometimes framed, in the US, in terms of a "culture war". Jay Walljasper, a commentator and the editor of Utne Reader - though not himself from the so-called '60s Generation - has written: "From the great gyrations of the counterculture would come a movement dedicated to the greening of the US. While many once-ardent advocates of radical ideas now live in the suburbs and vote Republican, others have held fast to the dream of creating a new kind of US society and they've been joined by fresh streams of younger idealists."[this quote needs a citation] In the UK, commentator Peter Hitchens identifies the Counterculture as one of the contributing factors to what he sees as the current malaise in British politics.[147]

Key figures[edit]

The following people are well known for their involvement in 1960s era counterculture. Some are key incidental or contextual figures, such as Beat Generation figures who also participated directly in the later counterculture era (see also: Inspirations and influences of the New Left, Key figures of the New Left). Although many of the people listed below were civil rights activists, those figures whose primary notability was within the realm of the civil rights movement are not listed here (see: List of civil rights leaders).

Timeline: chronology of events and milestones[edit]

(See also: Opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War: Timeline)







  • Jack Kerouac first uses the term Beat Generation in reference to the nascent intellectual culture that would ultimately give way to the so-called counterculture.





  • April 13: Project MKULTRA, the CIA's mind control research program which grew to include testing LSD on both volunteer and unsuspecting subjects into the 1960s, commences.
  • June 19: Julius & Ethel Rosenberg are executed at Sing Sing Prison, NY, after conviction on espionage charges for their role in the communist spy ring which gave the USSR the atomic bomb and thereby initiated the nuclear arms race.
  • December: Marilyn Monroe centerfold: the first issue of Playboy appears. Publisher Hugh Hefner becomes an early player in the coming Sexual Revolution.


  • April 6: On the floor of the US Senate, Senator John F. Kennedy proclaims that to "pour money, material, and men into the jungles of Indochina without at least a remote prospect of victory would be dangerously futile and self-destructive."[149]
  • April 27: The Geneva Accords grant flawed independence to French Indochina, establishing Vietnam as a unified, independent nation in name only. The US is not a signatory to the treaty. The French are officially out of Southeast Asia, leaving a people, and a raging civil war, behind.
  • May 17: Brown vs. Board of Ed: The US Supreme Court rules that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. True racial integration begins in the US.
  • April 6: On the floor of the US Senate, Senator John F. Kennedy proclaims that to "pour money, material, and men into the jungles of Indochina without at least a remote prospect of victory would be dangerously futile and self-destructive."[149]


  • February: The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) is formally activated, nominally obligating the US to intervene in case of military conflagration in the region.
  • July 9: Bill Haley's version of Rock Around the Clock begins an 8-week run at #1 on Billboard. The Rock & Roll era begins.[150]


  • April 21: "Heartbreak Hotel", Elvis Presley's first #1 hit, tops the charts for 8 weeks and creates teenage pandemonium in households across the western world.
  • August: The FBI's COINTELPRO domestic counterintelligence program commences. It is initially directed against stateside communist activities.







  • January 17: US President Eisenhower gives his farewell address to the nation, and uses much of his time to warn of the undue influence of the "Military Industrial Complex."
  • January 20: In a powerful inaugural address, new US President Kennedy calls upon citizens to "ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."
  • March 1: The Peace Corps is created by President Kennedy.
  • March 28: President Kennedy cancels the USAF B-70 Bomber program in the first significant rollback of the nuclear arms race.
  • April 17: A CIA-led invasion force intent on the overthrow of Fidel Castro lands at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Anti-Castro Cuban expatriates and CIA mercenaries are overtaken and captured by Cuban forces after President Kennedy (who inherited the operation planned under the previous administration) denies US air support at the last minute.
  • May 4: Civil rights activists known as the Freedom Riders begin to travel on public buses and trains across the south to challenge segregation.
  • June 4: JFK meets with Khrushchev in Vienna, and reports no progress. The Berlin Crisis commences.
  • August 13: Berlin Wall: To stem the tide of emigration from the communist east into the free west, the start of a wall, dividing the city of Berlin, is commenced.
  • November 1: Women Strike for Peace: 50,000 women march in 60 cities in the US to demonstrate against nuclear weapons.
  • November 14: US military "advisors" in Vietnam have grown from 1000 to 16,000.
  • November 30: Cuban Project: aggressive covert operations against Fidel Castro's revolutionary government in Cuba are authorized by JFK.
  • December 14: JFK signs an executive order establishing the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.


  • January 18: US military begins the use of the extremely toxic and carcinogenic dioxin-based defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam.
  • February 4: US helicopters assist the South Vietnamese army in the capture of Hung My.
  • February 26: Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister warns the UN that the US could be getting "bogged down" in Vietnam.
  • March 16: US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara reveals that US troops in Vietnam have engaged in ground combat.
  • March 19: Bob Dylan's first album Bob Dylan is released. It reaches #13 in the UK, but does not chart on the Billboard 200 in the US.
  • March 31: Cesar Chavez begins organizing migrant farm workers in California.[154]
  • June 15: The SDS completes the Port Huron Statement.
  • July–August: Dr. King's Albany Movement civil rights protest against segregation is active in Albany, GA.
  • September 12: JFK speaks at Rice: "... we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard ..."
  • September 27: Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is published.
  • October 5: the Beatles release the single "Love Me Do" in the UK, propelling them to instant fame in that country.
  • October: The Cuban Missile Crisis brings the world to the brink of nuclear war after the USSR attempts to station nuclear missiles in Cuba, thereby directly threatening the US.
  • Helen Gurley Brown's post-pill dating manual Sex and the Single Girl becomes a best-seller. Brown's attempt to have the book banned for marketing purposes fails.
  • Seven Days in May, a novel depicting a foiled military coup in the US, is published. The movie reaches theater screens in 1964 with an all-star cast.


  • Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique is published. The modern feminist movement is born.
  • April: Chandler Laughlin organizes a Native American Church peyote ceremony; precursor to The Red Dog Experience.
  • April–May: Birmingham Campaign: Teen and pre-teen Civil Rights activists trained by James Bevel are attacked by police in Birmingham, Alabama. Similar events occur at various locations all across the deep south throughout the spring and summer.
  • May: The first organized Vietnam War protests occur in England and Australia.
  • May 1: Undercover Bunny: Gloria Steinem's Playboy Club exposé appears in Show Magazine.
  • June 10: A Strategy of Peace: JFK delivers a powerful commencement speech at American University.
  • June 12: NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers is assassinated in Jackson, MS.
  • June 17: The US Supreme Court rules public school-sponsored Bible reading unconstitutional.
  • July 26–28: The Newport Folk Festival features Bob Dylan, and fellow protest singers Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs.
  • August 28: Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech before a rally of 200,000 on the Mall in Washington, DC.
  • September 24: The US Senate ratifies The Partial Test Ban Treaty as signed by the US & the Soviet Union, ending atmospheric nuclear weapons testing by the superpowers.
  • September 26: The US Senate debates a report that folk music is being infiltrated by Communism. Two Senators speak and conclude it is All-American, dismissing the report.
  • October 27: 225,000 students in Chicago schools boycott classes in protest at ongoing segregation.
  • November 2: South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated in Saigon.
  • November 22: US President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, TX. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as 36th President of the US.
  • November 24: Suspected JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is himself murdered by Jack Ruby under lax police security in Dallas, thereby creating doubt amongst many, and opening the door to myriad conspiracy theories concerning the Kennedy Assassination and the veracity of later government findings.


  • January: The Holy Modal Rounders' version of "Hesitation Blues" marks the first reference to the term psychedelic in music.
  • January 8: President Johnson's State of the Union Address features a declaration of "war on poverty".
  • January 23: 24th Amendment ratified: US Congress and states are prohibited from conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on payment of poll or other forms of tax.
  • January 27: Defense Secretary Robert McNamara states that there are now 15,000 US troops in South Vietnam, and that most will be withdrawn by the end of 1965.
  • February 1: The Beatles achieve their first hit #1 on Billboard with "I Want to Hold Your Hand".
  • February 7: The Beatles make their first US visit and appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. The telecast is seen by over 73 million, the largest TV audience to date in the US.
  • February 21–24: Students at Maryland State College protesting a segregated restaurant are fought by police.
  • February 25–26: Tens of thousands of school students in Boston and Chicago skip classes in protest of segregation.
  • March: San Francisco Sheraton Palace Hotel sit-ins result in arrests of UC, Berkeley students protesting racially-discriminatory Bay area hiring practices.
  • March 16: 25% of school students in New York City strike to protest segregation.
  • April 20: 86% of black students in Cleveland boycott classes to protest segregation.
  • May: Appearance of the Faire Free Press (later the Los Angeles Free Press), earliest of many "underground" US newspapers of the counterculture era.
  • May 7: President Johnson first refers to "the Great Society" in a speech in Athens, OH.
  • May 12: The first public draft-card burning is reported in New York City.
  • June 14: Ken Kesey and the drug-drenched Merry Pranksters depart California in the repurposed school bus "Further" en route to the 1964 World's Fair in Queens, NY.
  • July 2: The Civil Rights Act is signed by President Johnson. Racial segregation in public places and race-based employment discrimination are now banned under federal law.
  • July: The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopts radio non-duplication rules: FM must broadcast original content, not simply simulcasts of AM sister stations.
  • August 2: War Dance: the spurious Gulf of Tonkin Incidents off the coast of Vietnam lead to the nearly-unanimous passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution by the US Congress on August 7, giving the president unprecedented broad authority to engage in full "conventional" military escalation in Southeast Asia without a formal declaration of war.
  • October 1: The Free Speech Movement begins with a student sit-in at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • October 14: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • November 3: Sitting President Lyndon B. Johnson is elected President of the US in his own right, defeating Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater in a landslide.
  • November 4: Comedian Lenny Bruce is convicted on obscenity charges in New York City.
  • December 2: In a famous speech during a sit-in, Berkeley student Mario Savio tells supporters of the Free Speech Movement to "put your bodies upon the gears."


  • February 8: Aerial bombing of North Vietnam by the US commence.
  • February 9–15: Thousands demonstrate against the US attack on North Vietnam at the US Embassies in Moscow, Budapest, Jakarta, and Sofia.
  • February 21: Malcolm X is assassinated in New York City.
  • March 6: Regular US troops engage in combat in Vietnam for the first time.
  • March 7–25: SCLC stages the watershed Selma to Montgomery marches.
  • March 24–25: The first major "Teach-in" is held by the SDS in Ann Arbor, MI. 3000 attend.
  • March 27: Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison are given LSD without their knowledge by their UK dentist at a dinner party.
  • March 30: Owsley Stanley begins manufacturing "White Lightning" LSD in large quantities for sale as a recreational drug.
  • April: US combat troops in Vietnam total 25,000.
  • April 17: The first major anti-Vietnam War rally in the US is organized by the SDS in Washington, DC. 25,000 attend. Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Phil Ochs perform.
  • May 17: Hunter S. Thompson's article The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders appears in The Nation. A book soon follows.
  • May: Draft card burnings take place at University of California, Berkeley, a coffin is marched to the Berkeley draft board, and President Johnson is hanged in effigy. Jerry Rubin forms the Vietnam Day Committee with Abbie Hoffman and others during these events.
  • June–August: Red Dog Experience comes into full flower at Virginia City, Nevada's Red Dog Saloon - full-fledged "hippie" identity takes shape.
  • June 11: Alan Ginsberg reads at the International Poetry Incarnation in London, considered the birth of the UK Underground.
  • June 11: The Beatles are awarded as Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen for their contributions to British commerce.
  • July 25: Bob Dylan "goes electric" and is booed at the Newport Folk Festival.
  • July 30: Medicare is signed into law in the US, giving seniors a healthcare safety net.
  • August 6: The Voting Rights Act is signed into law in the US; "Literacy tests", poll taxes and other local schemes to prevent voting by blacks are newly or further banned under federal law.
  • August 11: 6 days of massive race riots erupt in the Watts section of Los Angeles: 35 dead, 1000 buildings damaged or destroyed. Meanwhile, smaller riots occur in Chicago.
  • August 31: The ban on the burning of draft cards is signed into law in the US
  • September 5: The word hippie is used in print by San Francisco writer Michael Fallon, helping popularise use of the term in the media.
  • September 25: Debut of The Beatles Saturday morning cartoon series.
  • September 25: Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" becomes the first protest song to hit #1 in the charts, while drawing heavy criticism and being banned by many stations.
  • September: Clarion call California Dreamin' is first released by The Mamas and the Papas.
  • October: The Yardbirds featuring Jeff Beck release the B-side Still I'm Sad. Psychedelic music first makes the charts.
  • October 15–16: Vietnam War protests in cities across US draw 100,000.
  • October 16: "A Tribute to Dr. Strange": 1,000 original San Francisco "hippies" first party en masse at Longshoreman's Hall. Owsley's "White Lightning" acid is available to all.
  • November 2: Quaker leader Norman Morrison self-immolates at the Pentagon to protest the war.
  • November 9: Catholic activist Roger Allen LaPorte self-immolates at the UN building in New York City.
  • November 20: 8000 antiwar protesters march from Berkeley to Oakland in CA.
  • November 27: Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters hold the first "Acid Test" at Soquel, CA.
  • November 27: Up to 35,000 antiwar protesters march on the White House.
  • December 3: The Beatles' Rubber Soul is released in the UK with a visually distorted image of the group on the cover.
  • December 25: Timothy Leary is arrested for drug possession at the Mexican border.
  • December: The Pretty Things release Get the Picture? The album includes a song entitled L.S.D.
  • Phil Ochs releases the satirical Draft Dodger Rag. He later performs the song on the CBS News Special Avoiding the Draft. Pete Seeger's version appears in 1966.
  • The East Village Other begins publication in New York City.
  • Early commune Drop City is founded in Colorado.



  • January: The "Human Be-In" is held in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. 20,000 attend.
  • February: Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane is released with images of hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms visible on the album cover.
  • February: Quagmire: Noam Chomsky's anti-Vietnam essay The Responsibility of Intellectuals is published in The New York Review of Books.
  • February 5: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour debuts on CBS and soon pushes the boundaries of acceptable TV content to the limit.
  • February 13: The Beatles issue Lennon's Strawberry Fields Forever as B-side to Paul's hit Penny Lane. "Cranberry sauce" is heard after the song fades-out. Or is it "I buried Paul"?
  • February 22: MacBird! opens in New York. It compares Johnson to Macbeth, who caused the death of his predecessor. The play runs for 386 performances through March, 1968.
  • March 26: 10,000 attend the New York City "Be-In" in Central Park.
  • March 31: Life Magazine publishes an editorial opining that "the hour of the hippie ... is coming."
  • April 4: Dr. King calls on young men to register as conscientious objectors in opposition to the war.
  • April 7: The cover of Time Magazine features the birth control pill.[157]
  • April 8–10: Race riots break out in Nashville.
  • April 15: An estimated 400,000 protest the escalating Vietnam War in NYC, marching from Central Park to UN Headquarters. Demonstrators also march in San Francisco.
  • April 28: Boxing Champ Muhammad Ali refuses induction into the US Army in Houston, Texas, on the grounds that he is a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam.
  • April 29: Technicolour Dream: 7000 attend a groundbreaking, televised 14-hour psychedelic rave to promote love and peace at Alexandra Palace, London.
  • May 2: Armed Black Panthers led by Bobby Seale enter the California State Assembly, protesting a bill to outlaw open carry of loaded firearms. Seale and five others are arrested.
  • May 5: Mr. Natural, the soon to be ubiquitous underground comix counterculture icon, makes his first appearance in the premiere issue of Yarrowstalks.
  • May 10: Rolling Stone Brian Jones is arrested for drug possession. He is later fined, given probation, and ordered to see a counselor.
  • May 11: Police fire on student protesters at Jackson State College, MS, killing one.
  • May 16: Student confrontation with police at Texas Southern University; one killed.
  • May 20–21: The Spring Mobilization Conference is held in Washington, D.C. 700 anti-war activists gather to discuss the April 15 protests, and to plan future demonstrations.
  • June: The "Summer of Love" in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco and recognition of the Hippie movement. Runaways inundate; TV crews visit; Gray Line sells bus tours.
  • June: Vietnam Veterans Against the War is formed.
  • June 1: The Beatles' Sgt Pepper is released and is widely recognised as the high-water mark of the brief psychedelic music era.
  • June–July: Deaths, property damage, injuries, and arrests follow US race riots in Tampa, Rochester, Brooklyn, Chicago, and Grand Rapids.
  • June 16–18: The Monterey Pop Festival in California draws 200,000 and is the first large extended festival of the rock era. Jimi Hendrix returns from the UK and makes his US "debut."
  • June 20: Muhammad Ali is found guilty of draft evasion. The US Supreme Court eventually hears Ali's legal appeal.
  • June 25: All You Need Is Love: The BBC's live satellite broadcast of the Beatle's summer UK hit reaches 400 million worldwide.
  • June 27: Stones Bust: Richards and Jagger are tried, then sentenced on an earlier bust at Richards' UK mansion. They soon appeal and are freed.
  • June 30: US military forces in Vietnam total 448,000.
  • July 7: The cover of Time features hippies.
  • July 12–17: Rioting in Newark, NJ with 24 deaths.
  • July 16: Hyde Park Rally: 5000 gather in London to protest "immoral in principle and unworkable in practice" pot laws. A petition signed by many notables is published.
  • July 23–27: The worst riots of the century to date erupt in Detroit, MI: 43 deaths, 467 injuries, over 7,200 arrests, and the burning of over 2,000 buildings to the ground.
  • July 30-August 3: Four are killed in Milwaukee rioting.
  • August 22: Look Magazine runs a cover story on "The Hippies".
  • August 27: Beatles manager Brian Epstein dies of an accidental prescription drug overdose in London at age 32.
  • September 30: Pirates No More: Hip Radio 1 commences broadcast over the legitimate airwaves of the BBC following the UK ban on offshore "pirate" radio transmissions.
  • October: "Guerrilla theater" group The Diggers stages the "Death of Hippie" in San Francisco.
  • October 9: Che Guevara is executed in Bolivia.
  • October 17: Stop the Draft Week: Demonstrators mob the US Army Induction Center in Oakland, CA. Joan Baez is among those arrested. Some are charged with sedition.
  • October 17: The rock musical Hair, featuring controversial full frontal nudity, premieres off-Broadway in New York City. The play becomes a Broadway smash in 1968.
  • October 19: Thousands of students clash with police at Brooklyn College in New York after two military recruiters appear on campus. Students strike the following day.
  • October 20–21: 70,000 protest war in Washington, DC: Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and others attempt but fail to levitate the Pentagon.
  • October 27: "Baltimore Four": Catholic priest Philip Berrigan and a Protestant minister are jailed after pouring blood on draft files in the SSS office, protesting bloodshed in Vietnam.
  • October 28: Black Panther leader Huey Newton is captured by Oakland police; one person killed in the shootout.
  • November 9: The first issue of Rolling Stone Magazine features a photo of John Lennon from the film How I Won The War.
  • November 20: Police using teargas charge a large student demonstration against recruiters for Dow Chemical (napalm manufacturer) at San Jose State College.
  • November 24: The Beatles release John Lennon's psychedelic coda, I Am the Walrus. The album Magical Mystery Tour arrives November 27.
  • December 4–8: Anti-war groups all across the US attempt to shut down draft board centers; Dr. Benjamin Spock and poet Allen Ginsburg are among the 585 arrested.
  • December 10: Monterey Pop Fest standout and soon-to-be soul legend Otis Redding dies in a plane crash at age 26.
  • December 22: Owsley Stanley is found in possession of 350,000 doses of LSD and 1,500 doses of STP, arrested, and sentenced to 3 years.
  • December 31: The term "Yippie" is coined by Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Dick Gregory, Paul Krassner and others. The Youth International Party is formed the following month.
  • December: The Moody Blues' masterpiece Days of Future Passed, featuring psychedelic themes and the London Festival Orchestra, is released.
  • December: US troops in Vietnam total 486,000. US war dead total 15,000.


  • Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is published.
  • January: Owsley-inspired pioneer Heavy Metal band Blue Cheer release Vincebus Eruptum, including a version of Summertime Blues.
  • January 31: The Tet Offensive is launched by the NVA and Vietcong. Western forces are victorious on the battlefield, but not in the press.
  • February 1: WABX-FM in Detroit and other stations change format. Playlists are picked by local DJs, not record companies. The Progressive Rock format soon spreads nationwide.
  • February 8: Police fire on and kill 3 protesting segregation at a South Carolina bowling alley, in what is known as the Orangeburg massacre.
  • February 15: The Beatles begin to arrive by rail in Rishikesh, India, for Transcendental Meditation training with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, amid widespread publicity.
  • February 27: CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite (the "most trusted man in America") publicly expresses personal doubts regarding the possibility of military victory in Vietnam.
  • February 29: Kerner Report: The Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders is released after seven months of investigation into US urban rioting.
  • March 16: My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. Apparent wanton rape and murder of innocents by US GIs creates enormous new antiwar outcry when news leaks in 1969.
  • March 17: London police stop 10,000 anti-war marchers from storming the US Embassy.
  • March 18: Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a long-time supporter of US policy in Vietnam, speaks out against the war for the first time, and announces his candidacy for President.[158]
  • March 21: 3,000 "Yippies" take over Grand Central Station in New York City, staging a "Yip-In" ultimately resulting in 61 arrests.
  • Spring: Appearance of "Nanny Goat" by Larry Marshall, widely credited as the first genuine reggae song. The new sound quickly takes off in Jamaica, the UK and the US by the end of the year, with reggae hits even by US and British performers: Johnny Nash's "Hold Me Tight" in October, and the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" in November.
  • March 31: President Johnson addresses the US public about Vietnam on TV, and shocks the nation with his closing remark that he will not seek a second term as President.
  • March–May: Columbia University protests, New York, NY. Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers becomes a protest slogan at this time, as well as the name of a radical activist group.
  • April: The US Department of Defense begins calling-up reservists for duty in Vietnam.
  • April: The US Bureau of Narcotics (from Treasury) and Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (from the Food and Drug Administration) merge, substantially ramping-up anti-drug efforts.
  • April 4: Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, TN. James Earl Ray is soon arrested for the murder. The King family later expresses complete doubt as to Ray's guilt. Violence erupts in cities across the US, with federal troops or national guard sent to Washington (Apr. 5), Chicago and Baltimore (Apr. 6).
  • April 6: Oakland Shootout: Black Panther Bobby Hutton is killed and Eldridge Cleaver wounded in a gun battle with police.
  • April 5: A Yippie plot to disrupt the upcoming August Democratic Convention in Chicago is published in Time.
  • April 14: The Easter Sunday "Love-In" is held in Malibu Canyon, CA.
  • April 27: Antiwar protesters march in several US cities, including 87,000 in Central Park, NYC.
  • May: The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers first appear in The Rag, an Austin TX underground paper.
  • May 2: Student protests erupt in France, which spread, escalate and lead to a general strike and widespread unrest during May and June, bringing the country to a virtual standstill.
  • May 10: The Paris Peace Talks commence in France. The war in Southeast Asia is the subject of the negotiations.
  • May 12: Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign establishes "Resurrection City", a shanty town on the National Mall in Washington D.C., with around 5,000 protesters.
  • May 17: Catonsville Nine: Catholic priests opposed to the war destroy draft records in a Maryland draft office.
  • May 24–27: Three killed in Louisburg, KY rioting.
  • June 3: Andy Warhol is shot and wounded by Valerie Solanas.
  • June 5: Senator Robert Kennedy, winner of the California primary, and presumed presidential front-runner, is assassinated in Los Angeles. RFK dies June 6.
  • June 19: "Solidarity Day" protest at Resurrection City draws 55,000 participants.
  • June 24: Remnants of "Resurrection City", with only about 300 protesters still remaining, razed by riot police.
  • July 17: The Beatles' psychedelic animated film Yellow Submarine is released in the UK; November 13 in the US.
  • July 28–30: University of California, Berkeley campus shut down by protests.
  • August 25–29: Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The proceedings are overshadowed by massive protests staged by thousands of demonstrators of every stripe. Mayor Daley's desire to enforce order in the city results in egregious police brutality, televised on national airwaves. On the third night, police indiscriminately attack protesters and bystanders, including journalists such as Mike Wallace, Dan Rather and Hugh Hefner. The spectacle is a turning point for both supporters and critics of the larger movement.
  • August 31: First Isle of Wight Festival featuring Jefferson Airplane, Arthur Brown, The Move, Tyrannosaurus Rex and The Pretty Things.
  • September 7: At the Miss America protest, feminists demonstrate against what they call "The Degrading Mindless-Boob-Girlie Symbol", filling a "freedom trash can" with items including mops, pots and pans, Cosmopolitan and Playboy magazines, false eyelashes, high-heeled shoes, curlers, hairspray, makeup, girdles, corsets, and bras.
  • September 28: 10,000 in Chicago protest on one-month anniversary of the convention violence.
  • Fall: Stewart Brand begins publication of The Whole Earth Catalog.
  • October 2: The Night of Sorrow: Students and police violently clash in Mexico City.
  • October 27: 50,000 march in London against the Vietnam war.
  • November 1: Johnson orders halt to aerial bombing of North Vietnam.
  • November 5: Richard M. Nixon defeats Senator Hubert Humphrey in a close race to become the 37th President of the United States.
  • November 6: Students demanding minority studies courses strike at San Francisco State College, where demonstrations and clashes occur through December.
  • November 22: The Beatles' White Album is released. The band's hair is very long, and the musical content is not psychedelic. Sales are phenomenal.
  • December 24: Earthrise, a photograph of the Earth, is taken from Moon orbit. "The most influential environmental photograph ever taken."[159]


  • January 8–18: Students at Brandeis University take over Ford and Sydeman Halls, demanding creation of an Afro-American Dept., which is approved by the University on April 24.
  • January 12: 5,000 students protesting discrimination in London clash with police.
  • January 29: Sir George Williams Computer Riot in Montreal is the largest student campus occupation in Canadian history.
  • January 30-February 15: Administration building of University of Chicago taken over by around 400 student protesters in a "sit-in".
  • February 13: National Guard with teargas and riot sticks crush a pro-black demonstration at University of Wisconsin
  • February 16: After 3 days of clashes between police and Duke University students, the school agrees to establish a Black Studies program.
  • March 1: Arrest warrants are issued for Doors frontman Jim Morrison after he allegedly simulates masturbation and threatens to expose himself at a concert in Miami, FL.
  • March 22: President Nixon condemns trend of campus takeovers and violence.
  • March 25–31: Following their wedding at Gibraltar, John Lennon & Yoko Ono hold a "Bed-In" peace event in Amsterdam.
  • April: US troop strength in Vietnam peaks at 543,000.
  • April 3–4: National Guard called into Chicago, and Memphis placed on curfew on anniversary of Dr. King's assassination.
  • April 4: Smothered: CBS Chairman William S. Paley personally cancels the highly controversial Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
  • April 9: 300 students "sit-in" at offices of Harvard protesting the ROTC. 400 police restore order April 10. The college makes ROTC extracurricular April 19.
  • April 19: Armed black students take over Willard Straight Hall at Cornell. The University accedes to their demands the following day, promising an Afro-American studies program.
  • April 25–28: Activist students takeover Merrill House at Colgate University demanding Afro-American studies programs.
  • May 7: Students at Howard University occupy 8 buildings. They are cleared by US Marshals May 9.
  • May 8: City College of New York closes following a 14-day long student takeover demanding minority studies; riots among students break out when CCNY tries to reopen.
  • May 9–11: 3000 college students flock to the "Zip to Zap" event in rural North Dakota, degenerating into a riot dispersed by the National Guard.
  • May 15: Bloody Thursday: Alameda County Sheriffs sent in by governor Ronald Reagan to eject flower children from People's Park in Berkeley, CA open fire with buckshot-loaded shotguns, mortally wounding student James Rector, permanently blinding carpenter Alan Blanchard, and inflicting lesser wounds on hundreds of other Berkeley residents.
  • May 21–25: 1969 Greensboro uprising: student protesters battle police for five days on campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; one student killed May 22. National Guard assault the campus using teargas, even dropping it by helicopter.
  • May 26-June 2: Celebrities gather as John & Yoko conduct their second Bed-In in Montreal, where the anti-war anthem "Give Peace a Chance" is recorded live.
  • June 18: SDS convenes in Chicago; they oust the Progressive Labour faction June 28, which sets up its own rival convention.
  • June 28: The Stonewall Riots in New York City are the first major gay-rights uprisings in the US
  • July 3: Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones, dies "by misadventure" in his swimming pool in East Sussex, UK, under mysterious circumstances at age 27.
  • July 14: The low-budget film Easy Rider is released and becomes a de facto cultural landmark. The film's success helps open doors for independent film makers of the 1970s.
  • July 15: Cover story on LOOK: "How Hippies Raise their Children."
  • July 18: The cover of LIFE Magazine features "hippie communes."
  • July 20: Apollo 11 lands. Humans walk on the moon. A tablet with the inscription "We Came in Peace for All Mankind" is left on the lunar surface.
  • July 25: Vietnamization: RMN's Nixon Doctrine calls on Asian regional allies formerly guaranteed protection under treaty to fend for themselves in non-nuclear conflicts.
  • August 9–10: Cult members acting under direction of Charles Manson embark on a 2-day killing spree in California, shocking the nation.
  • August 15–17: The 3-Day Woodstock festival is attended by an estimated total of 300,000-500,000 people, and becomes the watershed music event in counterculture history.
  • August 19: Immediately following Woodstock, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell and Jefferson Airplane appear on the Dick Cavett Show. The latter's use of the slogan "Up against the wall, motherfuckers!" in the lyrics for "We Can Be Together" slips past the censors and is played on national television.
  • August 30–31: Second Isle of Wight Festival attracts 150,000 people to see acts including Bob Dylan and The Band, The Who, Free, Joe Cocker and The Moody Blues
  • September: First US issue of Penthouse Magazine is published by Robert Guccione.
  • September 1–2: Race rioting in Hartford, CT and Camden, NJ.
  • September 6: First broadcast of H.R. Pufnstuf.
  • September 24: The Chicago Eight trial commences. Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, et al., face charges including conspiracy to incite riots at the 1968 DNC Convention. They become the Chicago Seven November 5 after defendant Bobby Seale is bound, gagged, and severed from the proceedings.
  • October 4: TV star Art Linkletter's daughter Diane, 20, tragically jumps from her 6th story window. Linkletter says Leary and LSD are responsible; no drugs are found in her system.
  • October 8–10: Elements of the Weather Underground and SDS stage the Days of Rage in Chicago.
  • October 15: Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam: massive anti-war demonstrations across the US and world.
  • October 21: Jack Kerouac dies from complications of alcoholism at age 47.
  • November 13: Vice President Agnew publicly criticizes the three mainstream television networks for their lack of favorable coverage.
  • November 15: Moratorium redux: over 500,000 march in Washington, DC. It is the largest anti-war demonstration in US history.
  • November 20: Native American protesters begin the Occupation of Alcatraz; occupation continues 19 months until June 11, 1971.
  • December: Total US casualties (dead & seriously wounded) in Vietnam total 100,000.
  • December 1: The first draft lottery in the US since World War II is held in New York City. Later statistical analysis indicates the lottery method was flawed.
  • December 4: Black Panther Fred Hampton is killed by combined elements of Chicago, Illinois, and Federal law enforcement under circumstances which to some suggest political assassination.
  • December 6: Altamont: the Rolling Stones organize and headline at a free concert attended by 300,000. It ends in chaos and violent death at a speedway near Livermore, CA.
  • December 27–31: Flint War Council, Michigan. SDS is abolished, the Weatherman break off, and one of the most significant seditious revolts since the US Civil War emerges.
  • Wavy Gravy's Hog Farm Hippie commune is established near Llano, NM.
  • Friends of the Earth is founded in the US. It becomes an international network in 1971.



  • President Nixon establishes the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency is activated in December, 1970.
  • January 1: Voting age in Britain lowered from 21 to 18.
  • February: Weather Underground bombings and arsons in US states of NY, CA, WA, MD, & MI.
  • February 18: Chicago 7 verdicts are handed down: 2 are exonerated, 5 are soon sentenced for "crossing state lines with intent to incite a riot".
  • February 23–26: Students riot at University of California-Santa Barbara.
  • February 25–28: Students riot, occupy campus buildings, etc. at SUNY Buffalo, NY.
  • March 6: Greenwich Village townhouse explosion: 3 members of the Weathermen are killed while assembling a bomb in New York City.
  • March 26: The documentary film Woodstock is released.
  • April 1: Jerry Rubin guest appears the Phil Donahue Show and lambastes Donahue for his conservative appearance.
  • April 7: California Governor Ronald Reagan is quoted on college campus student unrest: "If it takes a blood bath, let's get it over with."
  • April 7: Midnight Cowboy (which initially received an X-rating because of countercultural content) wins 3 Oscars including Best Picture in Hollywood.
  • April 10: Paul McCartney, when promoting his first solo album, announces that the Beatles have disbanded.
  • April 15: 100,000 gather on Boston Common to protest Vietnam War; about 500 radicals attempt to seize microphone, disrupting meeting.
  • April 22: The first Earth Day is held.
  • April 30: President Nixon reveals secret US military operations in Cambodia.
  • May 1–3: 13,000 people take part in peaceful demonstrations at Yale University in support of defendants in the New Haven Black Panther trials.
  • May 4: At a college protest against Nixon's spread of war to Cambodia, the Kent State Shootings leave 4 dead in Ohio.
  • May 5: The International Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty takes effect.
  • May 6: Student Strike of 1970: Many colleges across the US shut down in protest of the war and Kent State events.
  • May 8: "Hard Hat Riot": Construction workers confront anti-war demonstrators, Wall St., New York City. They march again May 11, and on May 20, 100,000 construction workers and longshoremen demonstrate at New York City Hall for the war.
  • May 9: 100,000 rally against war in Washington, D.C. At 4:15am, Nixon defies security, then meets and chats with protesters camping out at the Lincoln Memorial.
  • May 14: Jackson State killings: Police kill two and injure 11 during violent student demonstrations at Jackson State College, MS. This is two days after six African-American men were fatally shot in the back for violating curfew in Augusta by the Georgia National Guard.
  • May 19: Student riot at Fresno State University.
  • May 21: 5,000 National Guard troops occupy Ohio State University following violence.
  • June 11: Daniel Berrigan is arrested by the FBI for kidnapping/bombing conspiracy.
  • June 13: Nixon appoints the President's Commission on Campus Unrest; its report issued in September finds a direct correlation between the unrest and the level of US military involvement in Indochina.
  • June 15: The US Supreme Court confirms conscientious objector protection on moral grounds.
  • June 22: The US voting age is lowered to 18. This is soon challenged and overturned in the Supreme Court, leading to the swift adoption of the 26th Amendment on June 1, 1971 guaranteeing suffrage at 18.
  • June 27–28: Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK, featuring Hot Tuna, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many more.
  • August 6: Riot police evacuate Disneyland in Anaheim, CA after a few hundred Yippies stage a protest.
  • August 17: Communist activist Angela Davis appears on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list after a firearm purchased in her name is linked to a murder plot involving a judge.
  • August 24: The Sterling Hall Bombing at the University of Wisconsin in Madison by antiwar activists kills physics researcher Robert Fassnacht. Four others are severely injured, and millions of dollars in damages occur.
  • August 26–31: 600,000+ attend Third Isle of Wight Festival. Over fifty acts including The Who, Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Doors, Ten Years After, ELP, Joni Mitchell, and Jethro Tull.
  • August 29–30: Rioting and violence erupts at Chicano Moratorium anti-war rally in Los Angeles; reporter Rubén Salazar is killed by a teargas shell.
  • September 12: Timothy Leary escapes prison with help from the Weather Underground, and joins Eldridge Cleaver in Algiers.
  • September 16: London: Apolitical hard rock act Led Zeppelin end The Beatles' 8-year run as Melody Maker's world #1 group of the year.
  • September 18: Exceptionally influential musician Jimi Hendrix dies from complications of a probable drug overdose at age 27 in London.
  • September 19: Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival, the first ever Glastonbury Festival, features T-Rex and is attended by 1,500 people.
  • October: Keith Stroup founds NORML in Washington DC, a group working to end marijuana prohibition.
  • October 4: Janis Joplin, rock's first female superstar, dies as the result of an apparent accidental heroin overdose at age 27 in Los Angeles.
  • October 13: Political activist Angela Davis is arrested on kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy charges.
  • October 26: Doonesbury debuts as a syndicated comic strip, acknowledges the counterculture, and continues to chronicle events into the 21st century.
  • October 29: President Nixon is pelted with eggs by an unfriendly crowd of 2000 after giving a speech in San Jose, CA.
  • November 7: Jerry Rubin appears live on The David Frost Show and tries to pass a joint to the talkshow host, the signal for Yippies in the audience to rush the stage and protest.
  • December 6: The Maysles Brothers release their film documentary of Altamont: Gimme Shelter.
  • December 21: Elvis Presley arrives unannounced at the White House. The King meets and is photographed with Nixon. They discuss patriotism, hippies, and the war on drugs.
  • December: Paul McCartney sues to dissolve The Beatles.


  • January 12: Highly influential and long-running US TV smash All in the Family debuts with Rob Reiner as Michael Stivic, the counterculture's answer to bigot Archie Bunker.
  • January 31: Police fire on a peace march in Los Angeles, killing one.
  • February 4: A military induction center in Oakland, CA is bombed.
  • February 4–8: Rioting in Wilmington, NC leaves 2 dead.
  • February 13: An induction center in Atlanta, GA is bombed.
  • March 1: The US Capitol building is bombed by war protesters; no injuries, but extensive damage results.
  • March 5: The FCC says that it can penalize radio stations for playing music that seems to glorify or promote illegal drug usage.
  • March 11: Rioting at University of Puerto Rico leaves 3 dead.
  • April 23: Vietnam veterans protest against the war at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, throw their medals on the steps, and testify to US war crimes.
  • April 24: 500,000 protesters rally at US Capitol to petition for an end to the war; 200,000 rally against the war in San Francisco.
  • May 3: Over 12,000 anti-war protesters are arrested on the third day of the 1971 May Day Protests in Washington, DC.
  • May 10: Attorney General John N. Mitchell compares the antiwar protesters to Nazis, and on May 13, calls them Communists.
  • May 17: The play Godspell opens in New York, depicting Jesus and his disciples in a contemporary, countercultural milieu.
  • May 31: US military personnel in London petition at US Embassy against the Vietnam War.
  • June 13: The New York Times publishes the first excerpt of The Pentagon Papers, leaked military documents detailing US intervention in Indochina since 1945. This is stopped by Federal Court injunction on June 15.
  • June 18: The Washington Post publishes excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, halted by court order the following day.
  • June 20–24 : 'Glastonbury Fayre', the second Glastonbury Festival, features David Bowie, Traffic, Fairport Convention, and the first incarnation of the "Pyramid Stage".
  • June 22: The Boston Globe publishes Pentagon Papers excerpts; this is halted by injunction on the 23rd and the newspapers are impounded.
  • June 28: Muhammad Ali's conviction for draft resistance is unanimously overturned by the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
  • June 28: Nixon releases all 47 volumes of Pentagon Papers to Congress.
  • June 30: Supreme Court rules 6-3 that newspapers have a right to publish the Pentagon Papers. The Times and Post resume publication the following day.
  • July 3: Jim Morrison, founding member of The Doors, dies of a probable heroin overdose at age 27 in Paris.
  • August 18: Attorney General Mitchell announces there will be no Federal investigation of the 1970 Kent State shootings.
  • August: Cheech & Chong's eponymous first album is released.
  • September 9: Attica: Prisoners take control, hold hostages, and riot at Attica State Prison, NY. 39 die before prisoner demands are met and order is restored.
  • September 15: Greenpeace is founded in Vancouver, BC.
  • October 8: Three FBI informants reveal on PBS that they were paid to infiltrate antiwar groups and instigate them to commit violent acts which could be prosecuted.
  • October 19–23: Rioting in Memphis leaves one dead.
  • October 29: Guitar phenomenon Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band is killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon, GA at age 24.
  • November 10: Berkeley, CA City Council votes to provide sanctuary to all military deserters.
  • November: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson's drug-drenched indictment of 1960s counterculture, is published in Rolling Stone in 2 parts.
  • December 10: John Lennon and others perform at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • December 26–28: 15 Vietnam veterans occupy the Statue of Liberty to protest the war.
  • December 28: Anti-war veterans attempt takeover of Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. 80 are arrested.
  • December: Feminism comes of age: Gloria Steinem's Ms. Magazine is first published as an insert in New York Magazine. The first standalone issue arrives the following month.
  • Stephen Gaskin establishes "The Farm" hippie commune in Tennessee.
  • Saul Alinski's Rules for Radicals is published.
  • Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book is published.
  • The Anarchist Cookbook is published.


  • March: Nixon administration begins deportation proceedings against John Lennon, on the pretext of his 1968 marijuana charge in London.
  • March 22: The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, appointed by Nixon, finds "little danger" in cannabis, recommending abolition of all criminal penalties for possession.
  • April 16: Facing heavy ground losses, US forces resume the bombardment of Northern Vietnam.
  • April 17–18: Students at University of Maryland protesting the bombardment battle with police and National Guard are sent in.
  • April 22: Large antiwar marches in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
  • May 2: FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover dies at 77, after nearly 50 years as the top US law enforcement official.
  • May 19: Weather Underground bomb at the Pentagon causes damage but no injuries.
  • May 21–22: 15,000 demonstrate in Washington against the war.
  • June 4: Angela Davis is acquitted on all counts in her weapons trial.
  • June 12: John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band releases the politically charged double album Some Time in New York City.
  • June 17: The Watergate burglars are arrested in Washington, DC.
  • July 28: Actress Jane Fonda visits North Vietnam. Her return incites outrage when she insists that POWs held captive have not been tortured or brainwashed by the communists.
  • July: The first Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes is held over 4 days in Colorado, US.
  • November 2–8: About 500 protesters from the American Indian Movement take over the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington.
  • November 7: Republican Richard Nixon is re-elected in a landslide over progressive democrat Senator George McGovern.
  • November 16: Police kill 2 students during campus rioting at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  • November 21: A Federal Appeals Court overturns the conviction of the "Chicago 7" members.
  • December 18–29: US Operation Linebacker II becomes most intensive bombing campaign of the war.
  • The Joy of Sex: Unthinkable a decade earlier, the widely-read sex manual for the liberated 1970s is published and openly displayed in mainstream bookstores.
  • Michael X, a self-styled black revolutionary and civil rights activist in 1960s London, is convicted of murder. He was executed by hanging in Spain in 1975.


  • January 1: Bangladeshis burn down the US Information Service in Dacca while protesting the bombing of North Vietnam.
  • January 2: Nixon administration resumes the indiscriminate and heavy bombing of North Vietnam, after a 36 hour New Year's truce.
  • January 4: Forty neutral member nations of the UN formally protest the US bombing campaign.
  • January 5: Canada's Parliament votes unanimously to condemn US bombing actions and calls for them to cease.
  • January 10: Antiwar demonstrators attack US consulate in Lyons, France; and burn down the library of America House in Frankfurt, West Germany.
  • January 15:Antiwar protesters occupy US consulate in Amsterdam.
  • January 15: Nixon suspends the bombing, citing progress in the Peace talks with Hanoi. In fact, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt has warned him that US relations with Western Europe would deteriorate if the bombing is not halted quickly.[160]
  • January 22: Former US President Lyndon B. Johnson dies of cancer at his Texas ranch.
  • January 22: The US Supreme Court rules on Roe v. Wade, effectively legalizing abortion.
  • January 28: US combat military involvement in Vietnam ends with a ceasefire, and commencement of withdrawal as called for under the Paris Peace Accords.
  • February 27-May 8: Wounded Knee incident: Native American activists occupy the town of Wounded Knee, SD; 2 protesters and 1 US Marshal are killed during a lengthy standoff.
  • March: The first military draftees who are not subsequently called to service are selected, unceremoniously ending the Vietnam era of conscription in the US
  • March 29: Last US combat troops leave Vietnam as US POWs have been released.
  • May 17: The Senate Watergate Committee begins televised hearings on the ever-growing Watergate scandal implicating the President for gross abuses of power.
  • July 1: The Drug Enforcement Administration supplants the BNDD.
  • July 28: Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, NY draws 600,000 to see the Grateful Dead, the Band, and the Allman Brothers - the largest such gathering in the US since Woodstock.
  • August 15: All US military involvement in Indochina conflict officially ends under the Case–Church Amendment.
  • October 10: Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns. Nixon names Gerald Ford to replace Agnew on October 12.
  • October 23: Congress begins to consider articles of impeachment against President Nixon.
  • November 17: Nixon tells a press conference, "I am not a crook".


  • January 3: A Federal judge dismisses charges against 12 members of the Weathermen involved in the October 1969 "Days of Rage".
  • February 5: Patty Hearst is kidnapped by extremist group Symbionese Liberation Army and joins them, possibly after becoming a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.
  • March–April: Short-lived fad of "streaking" is at its height in the US.
  • April 20: Disco music, following the success of "Love Train" a year earlier, again hits number one on the Billboard charts with "TSOP", a clear sign that the post-"sixties counterculture" era is now at hand. The punk rock subculture also traces its genesis to around this time, with groups like Ramones and Television playing the CBGB club in NYC.
  • May 17: Six SLA members are killed fighting police in Los Angeles.
  • Summer: First issue of High Times is published.
  • August 8: Facing imminent impeachment, Richard M Nixon resigns as President of the United States. VP Gerald R Ford is sworn in 9 August and declares "our long national nightmare is over."
  • September–December: Police repeatedly quell unrest as desegregation comes to Boston high schools.
  • September 8: President Ford fully pardons former president Nixon.
  • December 13: President Ford invites ex-Beatle George Harrison to luncheon at the White House.
  • December 21: The New York Times reports that the CIA illegally spied on 10,000 antiwar dissidents under Nixon's presidency.


  • January 1: John Mitchell and three other Watergate conspirators are found guilty and sentenced to prison Feb. 21.
  • January 29: Weather Underground bomb at the US State Department, none injured.
  • April 30: Operation Frequent Wind: The last remaining US military and intelligence personnel escape Saigon as South Vietnam is invaded by communist forces, in direct violation of the Peace Accords.
  • July 28–39: Livernois–Fenkell riot in Detroit; one person killed.
  • September 5 & 22: President Ford survives assassination attempts by two women in one month.[161]
  • September 18: Patty Hearst is arrested by the FBI.[162]
  • October 7: A New York State Supreme Court judge reverses the deportation order against John Lennon, allowing Lennon to legally remain in the US.[148]



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