The Hippie Movement

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Throughout history, some generations have had a greater impact than those that came before them.

During the 1960s to 1970s, the Hippies, a new and radical culture that defied the teachings of older generations, emerged. This unique alternative society was primarily composed of younger individuals (Harris 14).

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The Hippie movement originated in San Francisco, California and extended its reach throughout the United States, Canada, and some regions of Europe (World Book). However, it wielded its most profound impact in America. In the 1960s, a radical faction known as the Hippies astounded America with their nontraditional way of life and revolutionary convictions. Hippies emerged from diverse origins and possessed varying backgrounds. Nevertheless, all Hippies were individuals between the ages of 15 and 25 (Worldbook).

They left their families and did so for various reasons. Some rebelled against their parents’ beliefs, while others sought to escape or were social outcasts who found acceptance within the Hippie community. According to Harris, being under the age of 25 became a significant milestone, uniting young people worldwide through a shared sense of Non-conformity, which Harris refers to as the “Creed of the Young.” It is notable that many Hippies hailed from affluent middle-class backgrounds.

Despite criticism from others who viewed their lifestyle as extravagant and aimless, the Hippies embraced their chosen way of life and were determined to pursue it without interference. The Haight Ashbury District in San Francisco became their preferred gathering spot, where the rest of the world would witness the emergence of this distinctive community. Referred to as the Haight Ashbury District, it became a popular tourist destination and was even regarded as “the only foreign tour within the continental limits of the United States” (Stern 147).

The Hippies were viewed as aliens by the conservative middle class due to their stark differences. Located in the heart of San Francisco, the Haight Ashbury district became a stronghold for the Hippies during 1965 and 1966 (Cavan 49). It was there that they resided and propagated their psychedelic culture throughout the entire area. Within the Haight Ashbury district, two parks held significant importance for all Hippies. Of the two, the Golden Gate Park stood out as the most renowned (Cavan 43).

The Golden Gate Park was the venue for the highly influential event that first brought the Hippies into prominence, namely the Trips Festival. Lasting an entire week, this festival was specifically created to honor and embrace the profound LSD encounter (Stern 148). In addition to the Trips Festival, numerous other activities took place at the Golden Gate Park, including free concerts featuring The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, as well as Anti-War rallies hosted by Hippie political leaders. Conversely, Buena Vista park served as a haven for Hippies during nighttime and as a social gathering spot during daylight hours.

In the 1960s, American youth experienced a growing sense of unity. A significant moment in 1969 showcased this unity as 400,000 young people gathered for an incredible three-day event in a small up-state New York town. This gathering served as a platform for them to enjoy rock and blues music, express their individuality through unique clothing (or no clothing at all), engage in conversations, sing, dance, clap hands, consume beer or marijuana, and embrace love. The primary purpose of this event was to marvel at the fact that everyone present shared this unforgettable experience. It became known as Woodstock after the town where it took place. Additionally, Greenwich Village in New York also served as a sanctuary for hippies.

Every Sunday, the Village was renowned for its lively gatherings of singers playing banjos and drums, joyfully commemorating their youth together (Stern 103). A key aspect of the Hippie movement revolved around the open use of illegal drugs. Of all the substances that Hippies partook in, none were as widespread as marijuana. From 1960 to 1970, the number of Americans who had tried marijuana increased from a few hundred thousand to 8,000,000 individuals.

The majority of new users, spanning from 12-year-olds to college seniors, were primarily interested in drugs and music. LSD, believed by some to enhance one’s connection with their surroundings (Cavan 114) (This Fabulous Century 84), was a commonly used drug among Hippies.

Previously, the situation was different as not all hippies had positive experiences with LSD. Some would consume low-quality LSD and have what is commonly called a “bad trip” or “freak out” (Cavan 115). During these instances, individuals would often enter states of extreme distress and, in certain cases, never fully recover. The occurrence of bad trips was so widespread that even at the Woodstock event, people were experiencing them.

Despite the easy accessibility of LSD, individuals continue to choose to use it and even turn it into a religion. Dr. Timothy Leary, a Harvard professor, shared his beliefs about LSD, comparing it to western yoga and claiming that like Eastern religions, LSD aims to elevate consciousness and achieve states of ecstasy and enlightenment (This Fabulous Century 84). Ken Keasey, an author, also played a key role in promoting the use of LSD.

During his tour of the United States in a psychedelic bus, he distributed LSD to anyone who was willing to participate. Hippies were recognized for their unorthodox music, with many of them being musicians themselves. Music served as a medium through which they could articulate their thoughts and concepts.

Bob Dylan, a highly influential musician of his era, conveyed the sentiments of numerous Hippies with his song “Like a Rolling Stone.” The lyrics not only captured Dylan’s individual reflections on his personal experiences but also resonated with his fellow contemporaries who similarly felt like a “rolling stone.”

The reason for his popularity and success can be attributed to his straightforward yet significant lyrics. Many Hippies considered Dylan as a representative of their beliefs. Several bands integrated drug-related themes into their music, such as Jimmy Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” which focuses on marijuana and the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” which alludes to LSD. The Grateful Dead also embraced this trend with their song “Casey Jones,” featuring lyrics like “High on Cocaine.” Apart from their musical endeavors and drug usage, Hippies participated in unconventional activities that were just as shocking as their vibrant attire.

According to Stern (161), it was a common practice among hippies in the Haight Ashbury District to insert a nickel into a parking meter and occupy the space with blankets for approximately thirty minutes. Due to this unconventional behavior, the public did not view them seriously. Stern (161) states that people considered hippies to be almost as comical as the Three Stooges. Additionally, television programs such as Laugh In capitalized on this counterculture by mocking it.

Movies also mocked the Hippies, with one notable film being The Presidents Analyst, which achieved great success. The movie specifically honored “the life, liberty, and pursuit of happenings,” and showcased the bizarre behaviors and actions of the Hippies. This stirred a mix of emotions among viewers across America – simultaneously finding their eccentricities amusing yet distressing. Although the Hippies provided entertainment from a distance, their impact on the American family and their role in dividing the country cannot be ignored.

While the adults of the time were conservative, hard working, and primarily concerned with money, the Hippies held no interest in those matters. They were enthusiastic party-goers who had no inclination to work unless absolutely necessary. They did not practice any religion nor did they value abstinence until marriage. Their nonconformist behavior led to their families rejecting them. Despite their relaxed and playful lifestyles, Hippies became serious when discussing politics, which undeniably played a significant role in their lives.

Expressing their strong emotions towards the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, the Hippies made their beliefs widely known. They did so through various means such as musical performances, pacifist folk songs, and participating in peaceful sit-ins (This Fabulous Century 206). However, their protests and rallies were particularly visible and impactful. Recognizing the grim reality of a failing war and the loss of numerous American soldiers’ lives, the Hippies took it upon themselves to voice their convictions.

According to Harris (36), in Washington DC, an exceptional protest occurred that surpassed all previous protests. It had the involvement of not only Hippies but also students, intellectuals, radicals, and citizens from different social classes. The demonstration gathered 250,000 protesters at the center of the United States with one shared goal: to withdraw troops and end US involvement in the war.

During the Vietnam War, numerous anti-war rallies were organized, which ultimately had a beneficial impact. According to This Fabulous Century (206), approximately 65% of Americans agreed with the hippies’ perspective. They advocated for the withdrawal of their troops, and this objective was achieved in 1969 when the President responded to their demand. Additionally, the Hippies actively engaged in both the civil rights movement and supporting soldiers in Vietnam while also expressing concerns about racism and persecution.

When President Kennedy attempted to enact his Civil Rights policies, the Hippies became highly frustrated (Harris 8). In response, several Hippies endeavored to establish their own communities in locations devoid of racism and persecution throughout the United States. Numerous communes were created by the Hippies, with some of them perceiving themselves as “challenging the corrupt society of pollution, war, and greed created by the white man” (Stern 166). Regrettably, these communes did not gain significant popularity and eventually dissolved after a brief span of time.

During the 1960’s, a radical group known as the hippies emerged, shocking America with their alternative lifestyle and radical beliefs. Despite their unconventional ways, the hippies played a crucial role in advocating for racial equality. Thanks to their activism, new laws were implemented after the decade ended, significantly advancing racial equality. The hippies were youthful individuals who lived life to the fullest.

They engaged in illicit substance use and indulged in rock and roll music. With their nontraditional ideologies and actions, they astounded the conservative middle class of America. Their primary concerns were demonstrating against the Vietnam War and advocating for civil rights, which had a profound impact on both America and the global community. Even in the present day, the Hippie movement continues to leave its mark. They achieved significant progress and established a blueprint for the youth of today and future generations. Cavan, Sherry.

The book titled “Hippies Of The Haight” was published by New Critics Press, Inc. in St. Louis in 1972. Another book by Nathaniel Harris is called “The Sixties”.

London: Macdonald Education Ltd., 1975. “Hippies” WorldBook Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Stern, Jane and Michael. Sixties People. New York: Alfred A.

Knopf, Inc., 1990. This Fabulous Century. New York: Time-Life Books, 1970. Outline Thesis: The Hippies, a radical group during the 1960’s, shocked America with their alternative lifestyles and radical beliefs.

They assembled in the Haight Ashbury District C while engaging in extraordinary behavior.

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The Hippie Movement. (2018, Jun 17). Retrieved from

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