San Francisco in 1967: The Summer of Love Reconsidered

AHA Session 34
Thursday, January 5, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Plaza Ballroom A (Sheraton Denver Downtown, Plaza Building Concourse Level)
William J. Rorabaugh, University of Washington
Michael Wm. Doyle, Ball State University
David Farber, University of Kansas
Gretchen J. Lemke-Santangelo, Saint Mary's College of California
Sherry L. Smith, Southern Methodist University

Session Abstract

This is a panel discussion about the thousands of wildly dressed, youthful hippies who suddenly congregated in San Francisco during the summer of 1967.  The episode became known as the Summer of Love, generated flashy media coverage, and celebrated easy sex, psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), and the rock and roll music of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin.

     In one sense, the party ended as quickly as it had started, but in another sense the hippie counterculture spread outward from San Francisco to other cities, to rural communes, and gradually into mainstream culture.  Cultural change, in the larger sense, was in the air, and the Summer of Love proved to be an early indicator for a long-term revolution in American culture.  Society and politics also were changed, although perhaps in complex and subtle ways that took decades to be recognized.

     This panel brings together four experts with diverse expertise about different aspects of the 1960s in order to explore the meaning of the Sixties counterculture and particularly the Summer of Love from distinctly different angles of vision.  Both the internal politics and political meaning of the counterculture have been highly contested, and the role of the counterculture in changing ideas about identity, including Native Americans and women, has been interpreted in different ways.  The panelists will explore continuities and discontinuities and sort through the many ironic consequences.  A freewheeling discussion with lively audience participation is expected.

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