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14 January 2012

On this day in history: The Human Be-In, 1967

During the afternoon and evening of 14th January 1967, over 20,000 people gathered at the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco in the largest expression of counter-cultural values yet seen. This "Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In" was the brainchild of the artist Michael Bowen as an attempt to bring together the hippies of the Haight-Ashbury district of the city with the anti-war and free-speech movements emanating from the Berkeley campus of the University of California.

Bowen was the co-founder of the San Francisco Oracle underground newspaper along with Allen Cohen. They had previously organised the Love Pageant Rally to protest a new law banning LSD, which also provided the central theme for the Human Be-In. The pair contacted Berkeley radicals such as Jerry Rubin and Max Scheer, as well as a number of rock bands, beat poets and other counter-cultural figures.

The event itself provided worldwide media exposure to the emerging hippie movement. Connections to the earlier "Beat Generation" were provided by the poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The Hells Angels provided security and a group called the Diggers handed out food. The psychologist, Dr Timothy Leary, suggested that everyone "Turn on, tune in, drop out"; while, Owsley Stanley distributed his "White Lightning" LSD. Music was provided by Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

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