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Summer of Love’s 50th Anniversary: The Cultural Movement That Changed The World

Photo by ABC7 SF

Photo by ABC7 SF

It was around this time 50 years ago that over 10,000 people gathered together in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district from all over the globe, with the common goal of changing the world. Often referred to as the peak of the hippie movement, San Francisco’s Summer of Love had a profound impact on American culture, and the values promoted during that time still resonate with the city’s identity to this day.

The Summer of Love era highlighted the shift to a more liberating society, one that would emphasize values of sharing, social equality, and peace within our communities. This time period brought new concepts to light during a time of nationwide turmoil.

In the 1960’s, several different groups started migrating to the Bay Area in search of being part of something greater. Artists, college students, bohemian writers — you name it, they went to San Francisco. These different subgroups eventually all found each other and established common grounds of making peace and creating a community.

Eventually, members of the Haight-Ashbury district decided to extend the invitation to all American youths to come to San Francisco and experience this community firsthand when the academic school year ended. This new gathering became known as “the Summer of Love,” which lasted from late spring to late summer of 1967.

SF Chronicle

SF Chronicle

The Summer of Love is credited for being the pioneer of several important movements, such as the organic foods and recreational drug movements. The genre of rock n roll also started being taken more seriously and artists encouraged experimentation with the music and distribution — leading to more creations of full-length, concept albums rather than just singles.

Additionally, The Summer of Love carried the philosophy of challenging authority and social norms, which echoed into that time period’s journalism — giving some newspaper the independent approach and some writers the courage to write subjectively, sparking the “new journalist” movement. This time period also opened dialogue about sexuality. San Francisco immediately became known for its sexual freedom and gender politics, where people started to question the nuclear family, heteronormativity, and access to birth control.

Now, for its 50th anniversary, the city of San Francisco is gearing up for an action-packed summer. Several museums such as the De Young Museum, are hosting exhibits of history and creations during time period, and several tour companies are offering 60’s focused city tours.

Others cities outside of San Francisco are celebrating in similar ways as well. Glen Burtnik of Styx and others musicians are putting on a Summer of Love concert tour going across the U.S., full of music and visuals of the time. Historically affiliated and nearby cities are also putting on their own festivals and activities to take part in the celebrations— such as Berkeley and Monterey.

Of course, if you can’t make it to any of these places, you can celebrate by just cranking up Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix and wearing some flowers in your hair.


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