The so-called "hippies" of the 1960s and 1970s were mostly young adults disillusioned by issues surrounding the Vietnam War, alienation from authority figures, and the ongoing struggle for civil rights.

Photograph by Robert Madden, National Geographic

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  • On January 14, 1967, the “Human Be-In” was held in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California. This so-called “Gathering of the Tribes” drew more than 20,000 people and came to symbolize the counterculture movement of the 1960s.
    The Be-In was also a symbol of the growing youth movement. Nearly half of the population of the United States was under 25 years old. Many of these young adult “Baby Boomers” were disillusioned by the Vietnam War, the assassination of youthful President John Kennedy three years earlier, and the ongoing struggle for civil rights. (In fact, the Be-In took its name from civil rights sit-ins, where protesters peacefully sat down and occupied a contested area—often, a location marked by racial segregation.)
    The Human Be-In preceded the famous “Summer of Love,” and established San Francisco (especially the city’s Haight-Ashbury district) as the center of so-called “hippie” culture. Hippies embraced peace and love; established their own communities; and engaged with mind-altering drugs. Timothy Leary, a psychologist who promoted the use of the mind-altering drug LSD, opened the Human Be-In with his famous phrase: “Tune in, turn on, and drop out.”
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    alter Verb

    to change.

    assassination Noun

    murder of someone of political importance.

    Baby Boomer Noun

    person born in the United States between roughly 1946 and 1965.

    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    civil rights Plural Noun

    set of fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all individuals, such as participation in the political system, ability to own property, and due process and equal protection under the law.

    contested Adjective

    called into question.

    counterculture Noun

    culture that opposes or provides an alternative to the dominant beliefs, traditions, and values of a society.

    disillusion Verb

    to destroy the ideals or false illusions of something.

    district Noun

    region or area, sometimes a unit of government smaller than a state or province.

    drug Noun

    chemical substance used to change the physical or mental state of an organism.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    hippie Noun

    person active in the 1960s and 1970s whose behavior and dress implied a rejection of traditional values.

    LSD Noun (lysergic acid diethylamide) drug that can alter consciousness.
    population Noun

    total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

    precede Verb

    to go before.

    promote Verb

    to encourage or help.

    protest noun, verb

    demonstration against a policy or action.

    psychologist Noun

    person with specialized knowledge of mental and behavioral patterns and characteristics.

    segregation Noun


    sit-in Noun

    demonstration where protesters occupy a space and refuse to leave it.

    Summer of Love Noun

    (1967) summer when as many as 100,000 people gathered in San Francisco, California, to celebrate counterculture lifestyles.

    symbolize Verb

    to represent an object, idea, organization, or geographical region.

    Vietnam War Noun

    (1956-1975) civil war in Vietnam, with the North Vietnamese supported by pro-communist nations and the South Vietnamese supported by anti-communist nations, which resulted in a northern (communist) victory and a split nation.