The 'Human Be-In' was a happening in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the afternoon and evening of January 14, 1967. It was a prelude to San Francisco's Summer of Love, which made the Haight-Ashbury district a household word as the center of an American Counterculture and introduced the word 'psychedelic' to suburbia.
The 'Human Be-In' focused the key ideas of the 1960s Counterculture: personal empowerment, cultural and political decentralization, communes, intentional communities , ecological awareness, consciousness expansion. The hippie movement developed out of disaffected student communities around Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley and in San Francisco's 'Beat Generation' poets and jazz hipsters, who also combined a search for intuitive spontaneity with a rejection of 'middle-class morality.' Allen Ginsberg was at the heart of the transition.
The 'Human Be-In' took its name from a chance remark that one of the creators of the San Francisco Oracle, which first hit the streets in September 1966, made at the Love Pageant Rally; the playful name combined humanist values with the scores of sit-ins that had been reforming college and university practices and eroding the last vestiges of entrenched segregation, starting with the F.W. Woolworth Company|Woolworth's lunch counter sit-in of 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Human Be-In was announced on the cover of the first issue of the San Francisco Oracle as "A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In." Speakers at the rally included Timothy Leary in his first San Francisco appearance, who set the tone that afternoon with his famous phrase "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" and Richard Alpert (soon to be more widely known as 'Ram Dass'), and poets like Allen Ginsberg, who chanted mantras, and Gary Snyder. Other Counterculture gurus included counterculture comedian Dick Gregory, Lenore Kandel, Jerry Rubin. The Hells Angels, at the peak of their 'outlaw' reputation, corralled lost children. A host of local rock bands such as Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, which had been a staple of The Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom since February 1966, provided the music.
The national media were agog. No one was able to agree whether 20,000 or 30,000 people showed up. Soon every gathering was an '-In' of some kind: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In comedy television show began airing over NBC just a year later, January 22, 1968.
The 'Human Be-In' was later recalled by its major instigator, Allen Cohen, as a necessary meld that brought together philosophically opposed factions of the current San Francisco-based Counterculture: on one side, the Berkeley radicals, who were tending toward increased militancy in response to the Federal government of the United States|U.S. government's Vietnam war policies, and, on the other side, the rather non-political Haight-Ashbury hippies, who urged peaceful protest.
The Counterculture that surfaced at the 'Human Be-In' encouraged people to 'question authority' in regard to civil rights, women's rights, and consumer rights, shaped its own underground newspapers and progressive radio stations.
Subsequently, the Be-In later spawned a series of Digital Be-Ins.
- Neville Powis, 'The Human Be-In and the hippy revolution."
- Capsule description.
- Allen Cohen's website, with history from an insider.
- Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s 'Rockument' commentary and sound bites.
- CounterCulture Wiki
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