North American counterculture  

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"After World War II, the confluence of returning servicemen, significant immigration, liberalizing attitudes, along with the rise of the "hippie" counterculture, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States.

Beat Generation writers fueled the San Francisco Renaissance and centered on the North Beach neighborhood in the 1950s. Hippies flocked to Haight-Ashbury and in the 1970s the city became a center of the gay rights movement with the emergence of The Castro as an urban gay village and the election of Harvey Milk and George Moscone." --Sholem Stein

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The North American counterculture of the 1960s began in the as a reaction against the conservative social norms of the 1950s, the political conservatism (and perceived social repression) of the Cold War period, and the US government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam.

As the 1960s progressed, widespread tensions developed in American society that tended to flow along generational lines regarding the war in Vietnam, race relations, sexual mores, women's rights, traditional modes of authority, experimentation with psychedelic drugs and a predominantly materialist interpretation of the American dream.

New cultural forms emerged, including the pop music of English band the Beatles, which rapidly evolved to shape and reflect the youth culture's emphasis on change and experimentation. This was accelerated after 1964, when the Beatles were introduced to cannabis in a New York hotel room by Bob Dylan, another youth culture icon.


Civil Rights Movement

American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)

British Invasion

British Invasion

Free Speech Movement

Free Speech Movement

New Left

New Left

Opposition to the Vietnam War

Opposition to the Vietnam War

LSD and other Drugs

Merry Pranksters and Timothy Leary

Black Power Movement

Black Power, Black pride

Black Power was a political movement among persons of African descent throughout the world, though it is often associated primarily with African Americans in the United States. Most prominent in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the movement emphasized racial pride and the creation of black political and cultural institutions to nurture and promote black collective interests, advance black values, and secure black autonomy.



Sexual revolution

Sexual revolution in 1960s America

Beginning in San Francisco in the mid 1960s, a new culture of "free love" arose, with millions of young people embracing the hippie ethos and preaching the power of love and the beauty of sex as a natural part of ordinary life. By the start of the 1970s it was acceptable for colleges to allow co-educational housing where male and female students mingled freely. This aspect of the counterculture continues to impact modern society.


Second-wave feminism

The role of women as full-time homemakers in industrial society was challenged in 1963, when American feminist Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, giving momentum to the women's movement and influencing the second wave of feminism.

Alternative media

Alternative media

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.


Music of North American counterculture

During the early 1960s, Britain's new generation of blues rock gained popularity in its homeland and cult fame in the United States. Folk singers like Peter, Paul & Mary ("Puff the Magic Dragon") and Bob Dylan (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan) influenced the British groups, and popular music became more closely aligned with the counterculture.



Counterculture environmentalists were quick to grasp the early (i.e., 1970s) analyses of the reality and the import of the Hubbert "peak oil" prediction. More broadly they saw that the dilemmas of energy derivation would have implications for geo-politics, lifestyle, environment, and other dimensions of modern life.

Technology and the rise of NGOs

In his 1986 essay From Satori to Silicon Valley, cultural historian Theodore Roszak pointed out that Apple Computer emerged from within the West Coast counterculture.

The counterculture had representatives in the sciences, the trades, business, and law. Many counterculture participants were stable, dedicated, and persistent. Much was done in the area of the human interface with the natural environment (in connection with science, technologies, community planning, parks, and other spheres). While ad hoc action groups sprang up frequently, usually fading away just as quickly, some established themselves as ongoing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to working toward particular goals. The counterculture gave rise to many lasting NGOs.


The legacy of the 1960s Counterculture is still actively contested in debates that are sometimes framed, in the U.S., 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, and having grown up in American-Heartland farming country — has written, "From the great gyrations of the counterculture would come a movement dedicated to the greening of America. 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 American society and they've been joined by fresh streams of younger idealists."

See also

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