Home » A People’s Queering of 20th Century Counter Culture

A People’s Queering of 20th Century Counter Culture

From 1997 Oregon Rainbow Gathering

From 1997 Oregon Rainbow Gathering

Welcome Home, Family! Whether you are identified as queer or not, if you have ever felt outcasted, isolated, othered in any way for any reason; if you have ever said to yourself, “there must be more to it than this” (or something of the like); if you have ever struggled with your identity, labeling yourself, finding meaningful friendships and relationships, finding meaning in life in general: you are the People for whom this history has been arranged.  This timeline observes literature, art, music, and philosophy as events in human history by which cultural knowledge is released into the human consciousness. In the time of the Ancient Greeks, communal space was a space of shared meaning. This is why we have chosen to include Plato’s Symposium and Aristotle’s Metaphysics.   They are excellent examples of a neo-modern culture (one we can easily relate in many ways to the 20th century) that ritualized finding meaning and understanding in the cosmos as a communal activity. The notion of Love discussed in Plato’s symposium suggests that love connects us to one another for purposes of enlightenment: it proposes an understanding of love that transcends the intangible institutions we regard as monogomy and heterosexuality, recommending a love “of all beautiful bodies.” In the context of this understanding, the other is necessary and essential to wisdom, which is essential for what Aristotle identifies as the human “telos” (the end toward which all humans aim): happiness. The United States is supposedly founded on the ideals of “freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  In order to “Queer” this inconsistency between the United States’ promise to its people of happiness and the easily observable excess of suffering not only in our nation but in our world, we must understand the historical lineage of “otherness” as it relates to both power and love. Oppressive power acts upon knowledge to destroy, reconstruct, and control it, whereas this history demonstrates how love and ritualized communal celebration (of human beings, music, art, poetry, plants, etc.) allowed for generations of people born into suffering and turmoil to sustain a powerful creative and radical spirit. During the uprising of the Roman Empire, power becomes more and more centralized, and there is a philosophical “disenchantment,” starting with the Stoic Philosophers, where Materialism becomes the norm, and thus meaning is purged from the cosmos.The Stoics proposed a divide between external and internal logos (meaning-made outside and inside of the psyche). This divide can be referred to as a ‘Privatization of meaning’: asserting that you do not truly know anything unless you have processed it through the ‘knowing’ mechanisms of your psyche; it is the initiation of the absolute subjectivity which has characterized the acquisition of knowledge in the colonized world.  This is the epistemological shift (a shift in what we define as knowledge and how we get it) that initiated the political visibility of the individual. In order to truly understand the significance of this shift in terms of power, knowledge, discipline, and individual social identity, which will be crucial to participating in a “people’s queering” of our interactive timeline, please refer to our selected excerpts from Michael Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Arguably, a multiplicity of isolated individuals, each on a separate and unequal quest for meaning, contributes to a collectively more docile human consciousness, one that is more vulnerable to its exploitation.  It is from here forward that we begin to see the first discourses about isolation, dehumanization, and alienation. The Roman Empire adapts Roman Catholicism as a tool of its power (demonstrating a relationship between knowledge, power, and discipline discussed by Michael Foucault), and forces it upon peoples minds while at the same time, with rulings such as the Theodosian decrees,  forbidding pagan practice. Pagan Practices such as the Elusian Mysteries (which will be reanalyzed by scholars of 20th century counterculture: 1978) were highly influential to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle,  and characterized by the human capacity to find meaning, truth, and empowerment in community with not only other humans, but with Mother Nature and the divine forces in our universe that were devalued and discarded by the Materialists, and the majority of society today. People were forced to worship a Divinity that specifically gave authority to the Romans. Knowledge, especially communally shared knowledge, that extended beyond the Catholic discourses of Roman rule, (including historically radical Christian groups, such as the Waldensians and the Hussites) came into a politically visible sphere of otherness. Pagans, Christian Radicals, Quakers, Diggers, Bohemians, the Beats, the Hippies and other groups have a shared history of resistance, and almost never initiated violence. Our history will observe how the Other, as soon as they are recognized as such by oppressive power, is met with violence that seeks to either relinquish or normalize their otherness or alter it so that is fits with the regime of political power.

It is a process of cultural destruction that is essential to the type of power that we currently feel is what isolates human beings from one another, their cosmic universe, and the true pursuit of happiness.  Every human being, in an environment conducive to their creativity, is a fountain of cultural consciousness. We can see physically how love can bring about creation (reproduction), and likewise, in the spirit of the Symposium, suggest that a community of real love, or Eros, is essential to creativity, cultural consciousness, and enlightenment. Our history will observe how the “fear of the other” has characterized the centralization and globalization of power, and when used as a mechanism of its normalizing gaze, alienates human beings from one another and thus confines them to their individuality, restricting the capacity for true Eros which is a shared experience. Our social identities do not just serve the purpose of our own self understanding, but literally allow is to be identified in a certain way, such that if we are identified as the other, we are brought into a particular state of being that is characterized also by not being something else. This simultaneous being and not being places immense strain on an isolated human psyche, however, in the spirit of the Aristotealean notion of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, and the Bohemian concept of art of the sake of art, we propose that “being” in a space of love and thus creative cultural consciousness is a being that is complete in itself: and counterculture is characterized by a quest for being in this way (i.e. the Human Be-In: 1967). The counter-cultural pursuit reveals itself as a pursuit of enlightenment: a conscious completeness.

Epistemology of the Closet, Sedgwick 1990

Epistemology of the Closet, Sedgwick 1990

The mechanisms which forge the marriage between power and knowledge date back to the spread of the Roman empire, can be traced through the exploits of colonialism, and are rampant in the neoliberal, freemarket capital practices of today. They are truly mechanisms of cultural destruction: they act to replace cultural consciousness, or real human consciousness with material consciousness, which allows for the objectification, debasement (devaluing of worth, and in this context meaning) and controlled coordination of all existing things into a calculated state of being where they are most exploitable. The United States was founded on a massive cultural genocide of both tangible and intangible cultural resources that still continues to this day. 20th century America is the America that emerged during a century unlike any other when it comes to otherness, because this century brought sexuality into the political sphere. Groundbreaking Queer theorist Eve Sedgwick, in her work Epistemology of the Closet, observes the 20th century as being particularly characterized by the terms homo and heterosexual, so much so that this binary governs almost every aspect of our social being.   She states, “[the] homo/heterosexual definition has been a presiding master term of the past century, one that has the same, primary importance for all modern Western identity and social organization.” Throughout history, those who have been othered, in order to sustain their cultural consciousness, have found their “chosen family”, gone into hiding, politically resisted, done everything they could do to overcome oppressive power that seeks to fragment and reconstruct their being. We recommend observing the experience of otherness as transcendent of space and time, whether you are Queer, or you identify with Queer community because perhaps you yourself have felt othered in some way. This timeline provides a chance to look back in history for a “chosen ancestry”: to look for those who have created spaces of loving community for historical “others”, and connect to them through the multimedia elements provided on this website, from a place of love, in order to connect with the cultural consciousness that has sustained a history of oppressive power, and perhaps open your mind to a greater understanding of not only yourself in terms of this history, but your community, your world, and your universe. 1968_protests

As we hope that this website can be a tool for anyone who wishes to be a force of change, we want to take the space to connect with anyone who feels driven by the revolutionary spirit. History is an imperative tool for growth and change, and we hope that this history comes alive in a way that inspires, motivates, and validates the revolution within you: A Letter to The People, From the People: A Call for Family: Revolution, if you want it. (By S.A.): “We cannot wait for a revolution to happen, in fact if we continue thinking we need to wait for revolution in order to truly be able to live how we want, there will never be change…We are living the revolution right now, if it pleases you to say so, and it is up to all that exist on Earth right now to determine what that change will look like, how it will take place, and whether that will look any different from the past years gone by.”

  A People’s Queering of Counterculture is a people’s history (a timeline that pieces together a history of creative expression, chosen family, and resistance) that incorporates a “queer theory for the people”, which, in its construction and particular organization, merges academic queer theory with a theory of queer experience as a transcendent and yet historically documented pattern of otherness in its construction. We hope to contribute to the possibility of discovering an ancestral body of tangible and intangible cultural resources of counter-cultural communities, or the communities of the visible other. By no means is this a complete history, it is a living one. This is simply an interactive platform for the possibility of connecting a chosen human family that shares a history of love and resistance.

The Human Be-In, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1967

The Human Be-In, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1967

Previous to 1900

  • c. 385–380 BC Eros and the suggestion of Transcendence : Plato’s Symposium
  • Aristotelian Metaphysics: Knowledge for the sake of Knowledge
  • The Introduction of an Absolute Subjectivity and the “Disenchantment” of Knowledge: the Centralization of Power and the Rise of the Roman Empire
  • 389-392 The Theodosian Decrees: between 389 and 391 A.D., Theodosius (the last emperor to rule over  both the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire) issued the Theodosian decrees, banning the practice of paganism, reiterating an earlier ban by Constantine with much more force. This set in motion a pagan genocide, which involved mass deaths, the destruction of many tangible cultural resources, including many of the Hellenistic temples such as the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, entire forests; as well as the destruction of many intangible cultural resources such as holidays, and the violent othering and repression of pagan cultural consciousness
  • 1095-1270: The Crusades
  • 1184 The Waldensian movement is declared heretical and becomes persecuted by Roman Catholic Church officials: organized by Peter Waldo (there are many other spellings of his name) who gains followers who call themselves ‘the poor’. They were dedicated to preaching, specifically about a life without material wealth and a permanent home. This practice of preaching was upsetting to the Clergy, and thus they are declared heretics by Pope Lucius III
  • 1200 Troubadours of Provence introduce the concept of love into their ballads
  • 1210 Episcopal synod in Paris bans Averroes’ Commentaries on Aristotle
  • 1211 more than 80 Waldensians burned as heretics
  • 1255 A “Purged” Aristotle is being officially taught in Paris
  • 1277 Bishop of Paris condemns 219 propositions of Aristotle, asserting that they may no longer be taught
  • 1229-1808 The Inquisition: Pope Innocent II stated “Anyone who attempts to construe a personal view of God which conflicts with Church dogma must be burned without pity.” People were stripped of their political rights, their land, and many times their lives for coming into a sphere of visible otherness in the Roman Empire
  • Late 1200’s Florence becomes leading European city in commerce and finance: beginnings of manufacturing industries
  • 1382 John Wycliffe translates the Bible to English: all of his writings are banned
  • Jan Hus, attracted to Wycliffe’s philosophical realism, asserts that the Bible, not the Catholic Church, is the ultimate authority for Christian believers
  • July 6th, 1415 Jan Hus is burned at the stake
  • 1419 to circa 1434 Hussite Wars; Bohemian Wars; Hussite Revolution: The Hussites effectively defeat several crusades
  • 1400-1500 Enclosures in Britain force farming families into urban environments: initiating the start of small trades, leading to the construction of factories and industrialization
  • 1487 Pope Innocent VIII instigates the systematic persecution of witches by endorsing the Malleus Maleficarum 
  • 1492 European colonization of the Americas begins
  • 1509 European slave trade: Africans taken to South America
  • 1517 Martin Luther protests against the Church’s sales of indulgences with his 95 theses
  • 1567 Two million Native Americans in South American die from typhoid fever
  • 1561-1626 Francis Bacon: Early Modernity and the Human Mastery over Nature: Bacon’s writings thematically characterize the  materialism and focus on the power of science over nature which characterizes the scientific world today: Arguably this can be seen as the beginning a shift from religious knowledge to as being the “magnetic field of power” to scientific knowledge
  • 1620 Pilgrims flee Europe, and settle in Plymouth Massachusettes
  • 1638 John Liburne is arrested by Church officials for distributing banned literature
  • 1648 Society of Friends (Quakers) is founded by George Fox: Fox challenged the belief held by the Roman Catholic Church that there was a necessity for an authoritative hierarchical structure of Priests and Bishops. He believed that the power of God was in everyone, reminiscent of the Aristotelian notion that God is all existing things.
  • 1648 Common folks (Surrey Diggers) started farm the Commons of England for food: The Diggers were a group of non-conformers who believed in the creation of small egalitarian rural communities
  • 1649 Surrey Diggers: (June) “A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England” (click to read this in full http://www.bilderberg.org/land/poor.htm): “The earth was not made purposely for you, to be Lords of it, and we to be your Slaves, Servants, and Beggers; but it was made to be a common Livelihood to all…That our hearts begin to be freed from slavish fear of men, such as you are; and that we find Resolutions in us, grounded upon the inward law of Love, one towards another, to Dig and Plough up the Commons, and waste Lands through England…For though you and your Ancestors got your propriety by murder and theft, and you keep it by the same power from us, that have an equal right to the Land with you, by the righteous Law of Creation, yet we shall have no occasion of quarrelling (as you do) about that disturbing devil, called Particular ProprietyFor the Earth, with all her Fruits of Corn, Cattle, and such like, was made to be a common Store-house of Livelihood to all Mankind, friend, and foe, without exception”
  • 1649 (November) Soldiers are dispatched to assist the local Justices of Peace in removing the Diggers
  • 1650 The Surrey Diggers disband
  • 1670 First minute hands on watches
  • 1692 Salem Witch Trials
  • 1694 American colonists begin to move away from religious practices in response to the Salem Witch Trials (notably conducive to the shift from religious-political knowledge to scientific-political knowledge)
  • 1700 First American protest against slavery
  • 1712 Slave Revolts in New York
  • 1715 Rising of Native American tribes in South Carolina colony
  • 1721 John Lombe’s water-powered silk mill: the first industrialized factory
  • 1727 Quakers demand abolition of slavery
  • 1730 Classical Music Era Begins
  • 1748 John Cleland publishes Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, an erotic novel, which is banned in the US until 1966:
  • 1749 Cleland is arrested and charged with “corrupting the Kings subjects”
  • 1750 Jean Jacques Rousseau writes the “Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts” where he discusses the harmful effects of modern civilization
  • 1754-1763 Seven Years’ War
  • 1755 Rousseau’s second essay, “The Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men” where he asserts that injustice in human society is the artificial result of political and intellectual influences over natural impulses
  • 1765 Rousseau’s house is stoned and he takes refuge in Great Britain
  • 1770 Rousseau is allowed to return Paris with the agreement that he would not publish any books: he went on to give private readings
  • 1773 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Goetz von Berlichingen
  • 1776 United States Independence
  • 1800’s “L’art pour l’art” (art for art’s sake): the phrase rang through the Bohemian and Romantic movements of the 19th century: This is reminiscent of the Aristotelian notion that knowledge is for itself and complete in itself
  • 1818 Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus: a portrayal of the caustic effects of science as having power over nature
  • 1836 Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Nature”
  • 1838-1839 Thousands of our Native people die during the forceful displacement of Cherokee peoples from their homelands in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee to “Indian Territory” in Oklahoma on the “Trail of Tears”
  • 1839 First Electric Clock
  • 1839 Bourgeois writer  Honore de Balzac uses the word “bohemian” to describe the new creative spirit
  • 1840 French Anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government: “If I were to answer the following question: What is slavery, I should answer in one word, It is murder!, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required…Why, then, to this other question: What is property? may I not likewise answer, It is robbery!, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?”
  • 1842 Britain wins Opium War, forcing Chinese to accept opium instead of silver as payment for tea and silk
  • 1843 U.S. builds first telegraph line
  • 1843 Michael William Balfe’s “The Bohemian Girl” is performed
  • 1845 Frederick Engels: “The Conditions of the Working Class in England”
  • 1849 Thoreau: On the Duty of Civil Disobedience: “How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer, that he connot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also.”
  • 1850 Edgar Allen Poe: The Poetic Principle: “This poem written solely for the poem’s sake”
  • 1851 John Ruskin: “The Stones of Venice”: Asserting the power and importance of creativity
  • 1854 Thoreau: “Walden”
  • 1863 New York City Draft Riots
  • 1864 Mark Twain arrives in San Francisco
  • 1865 U.S. Civil War ends, 13th amendment to U.S. Constitution abolishes slavery
  • 1865 First oil pipeline is built in Pennsylvania
  • 1869 John Stuart Mill: On the Subjection of Women: “That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes–the legal subordination of one sex to the other–is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, no disability on the other.” (click here to read in full http://www.constitution.org/jsm/women.htm)
  • 1871 Victoria Woodhull delivers a speech in Steinway Hall, New York City: “Yes, I am a Free Lover”
  • 1872 Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin, founder of “collectivist anarchism” philosophy, is expelled from the International by Karl Marx
  • 1873 U.S. Comstock Law: the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act: bans the mailing of “lewd”, “indecent”, “filthy”, “or “obscene” materials
  • 1877 Railroad workers strike in a dozen U.S. cities
  • 1886 Haymarket affair
  • 1886 1400+ Strikes in the US
  • 1886 Apache leader Geronimo surrenders
  • 1887 The Dawes Act: authorized the President of the United states to survey Native American tribal land and divide it into allotments
  • 1889 Edward Carpenter: “Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure”: Proposes Civilization as a as a disease that human societies pass through. In the following passages, he describes the effect of Civilization in way that characterizes the process by which cultural consciousness is replaced by material, social, and political consciousness: “As the central authority gets more and more shadowy in each man, and the external attraction of Property greater, so it does in society. The temporal and spiritual powers part company. The king – who at first represented the Divine Spirit or soul of society, recedes into the background, and his nobles of high degree (who may be compared to the nobler, more generous qualities of the mind) begin to take his place. The is the Aristocracy and the Feudal Age – the Timocracy of Plato: and is marked by appearance of large private tenures of land, and the growth of slavery and serfdom – the slavery thus outwardly appearing in society being the symbol of the inward enslavement of the man. Then comes the Commercial Age – The Oligarchy or Plutocraacy of Plato. Honour gives place to material wealth; the rulers rule not by personal or hereditary, but by property qualifications. Parliaments and constitutions and general Palaver are the order of the day. Wage-slavery, usury, mortgages, and other abominations, indicate the advance of the mortal process. In the individual man gain is the end of existence; industry and scientific cunning are his topmost virtues… For just as we saw in the human body, when the inner and positive force of Health has departed form it, that it falls a prey to parasites which overspread and devour it; so, when the central inspiration departs out of social life, does it writhe with the mere maggots of individual greed, and at length fall under the domination of the most monstrous egoist who has been bred from its corruption.” (Click Here for a full downloadable version)
  • 1889 Moulin Rouge opens (Place Blanche, Paris): Mecca of Bohemian Counterculture
  • 1889 Emma Goldman gives first speech in NY
  • 1893 U.S. adopts single gold standard, basis of capital centralism
  • 1894 Pullman Strike
  • May 27th, 1895 Oscar Wilde is imprisoned for “gross indecency” due to unearthed evidence about his sexual encounters with other men
  • 1897 An Ordinance created Crescent City’s legendary red-light district in New Orleans, called “Storyville”, which became a birthplace and cultural Mecca for Jazz
  • 1898 First ragtime song published
  • 1898 Peter Kropotkin: Fields, Factories, and Workshops
  • 1899 Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag; Eubie Blake’s Charleston Rag

1900-1920

  • Silent Film Era Begins
  • 1904 First radio transmission of music
  • 1904 Quaker Lizzie Magie, follower of Henry George, granted patent for “Lanloard’s Game” (Monopoly)
  • January 22nd, 1905 Bloody Sunday
  • 1906 Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character: Weininger asserts that all people are made up of a blend of male and female substance  (Click here to read in full) 
  • 1906 Buddy Bolden, known as the first “king” of New Orleans “Storyville” music, is committed to New Orleans mental hospital for 24 years
  • 1907 The Creation of a literary colony in the Bay Area: Poet George Sterling is a congregating force
  • 1908 Edward Carpenter‘s The Intermediate Sex
  • 1909 Gertrude Stein‘s “Three Lives”
  • 1909 30,000 New York Shirtwaist workers walk out, hundreds are jailed
  • 1910 Bloomsbury Group in London is formulated, with Virginia Woolfe as the de facto leader: controversial approach to homosexuality and the institution of marriage (click for more info on the Bloomsbury Group)
  • July 28th, 1914 WWI starts in Europe
  • 1914 Birth Control Activist Margaret Sanger’s Family Limitation
  • Bathhouses begin to emerge as a social epicenter of Queer community
  • 1915 the height of New York Dada, a highly influential art form in the early 20th century counterculture
  • 1916 Margaret Sanger is arrested for opening the first birth control clinic in the country
  • April 6th 1917 US enters WWI
  • June 1917 Espionage Act passed
  • April 17th 1917 New Orleans “Storyville” brothels section shut by Secretary of Navy; many Black people heading north due to lynchings
  • 1919 Nationwide steelworker strikes
  • December 21st 1919: Palmer Raids

1920-1940

  • The Lost Generation
  • 1920’s Gertrude Stein‘s Saturday night gatherings
  • 1921 Margaret Sanger founds the American Birth Control League (the precursor to the Planned Parenthood Federation)
  • 1921 Sacco & Vanzetti found guilty of murder
  • 1922 Initiative in New York City to ban public smoking for women
  • 1922 Stockmarket begins to “boom” (until 1929)
  • 1922 T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (click here to read in full)
  • 1923 The Cotton Club Opens, a Mecca for Jazz during the Harlem Renaissance
  • 1923 Edna St. Vincent Millay wins Pulitzer Prize
  • 1926 “Masculine Women and Feminine Men” is released
  • 1927 US is manufacturing 85% of the World’s Cars
  • 1929 US Stock Exchange collapses
  • 1933 San Francisco: Black Cat Cafe
  • 1933 FDR’s Inauguration: The Hundred Days
  • 1934 Prohibition ends
  • 1934 Workers strike nationwide
  • 1938 Dr. Albert Hofmann Synthesizes LSD for the first time, harnessing what he believed to be the therapeutically essential alkaloids in ergot fungus
  • 1939 WWII begins

1940-1960

  • December 7th, 1941 Japanese attack Pearl Harbor: US enters WWII
  • 1940’s Jazz Culture (Bebop, The Hipster/Hepcat): The Emergence of the Beats
  • 1942 First Electronic computer developed
  • April 19th 1943: Bicycle Day: Albert Hofmann intentionally ingests 250 micrograms of LSD
  • 1944 Cost of living in US rises 30%
  • 1944 Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Borroughs meet around Columbia University
  • August 6th&9th 1944 Atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • September 2nd 1945 Surrender of Japan: WWII ends
  • 1945 United Nations Founded
  • 1945 World Bank Founded
  • 1946 4,985 strikes in the US
  • 1946 Kerouac and Ginsberg meet Neal Cassady in New York City
  • 1946 Television Set Sales begin to boom
  • 1947 CIA chartered
  • 1947-1950 Kerouac & Cassady make trips across the country
  • 1948 Allan Ginsberg moves to Greenwich Village
  • 1948 Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior of the Human Male (1st Edition)
  • 1948 Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead
  • 1949 Miles Davis: The Birth of the Cool: Cool Jazz
  • March 25th, 1949: University of California announces that all faculty and employees must sign a loyalty oath
  • April 1951 Jack Kerouac completes “On the Road”
  • 1953 William S. Burroughs Junkie is published, originally under the author name of “William Lee
  • The McCarthy Era
  • Anarcho-pacifist poets meet at home of Kenneth Rexroth over Jack’s Record Cellar in the Haight
  • 1950 Mattachine Society is founded
  • Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) is founded
  • 1951 President Truman starts college draft deferment
  • 1951 Lawrence Ferlinghetti leaves New York for San Francisco
  • 1951 John Clellon Holmes’ “Go”
  • November 16th, 1952 John Clellon Holms: “This is the Beat Generation”
  • 1952 The American Psychiatric Association adds homosexuality to its list of mental disorders
  • 1953 President Eisenhower gives executive order banning the employment of homosexuals in the Federal Government
  • 1953 Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin found City Lights Bookstore
  • 1953 Alan Ginsberg moves to San Francisco
  • 1953 Lung cancer is reported attributable to cigarette smoking
  • 1954 Geneva agreement divides Vietnam
  • 1954 Alan Ginsberg meets Peter Orlovsky, who becomes his longtime companion
  • 1954 The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach
  • 1954 Aldous Huxley: Doors of Perception
  • 1954: Helen & Scott Nearing: Living the Good Life
  • 1954 Relocation program sends Native Americans to cities
  • 1955 Jack Kerouac “Jazz of the Beat Generation”
  • 1955 Kerouac writes Mexico City Blues
  • October 13, 1955 Poetry Reading at Six Gallery, Fillmore Street, San Francisco: Alan Ginsberg reads “Howl” publicly for the first time
  • December 24th, 1955 Aldous Huxley takes LSD for the first time
  • 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act
  •  1957 Allen Ginsberg Howl is published  by City Lights and becomes the subject of an obscenity trial
  • 1957 Norman Mailer “The White Negro”
  • 1957 Valentia and Robert Gordon Wasson’s “Seeking the Magic Mushroom” is published in Life Magazine, sparking interest in the Mazatec ritual practice among American counterculture: This initiates a search for Entheogenic (psychoactive and spiritual, substance based) enlightenment that will follow counterculture up until today. (click to read this article, and for more information)
  • March 25th, 1957 US Customs seizes second printing of Howl by City Lights, but decides to allow release
  • August 1957 San Francisco Police raid City Lights
  • October 4th 1957 Russians launch the first satellite Sputnik
  • 1958 Joan Baez sings at the Newport Folksong Festival
  • 1958 One, Inc. v. Olesen
  • 1958 William Burroughs: Naked Lunch
  • 1958 Kerouac: Dr. Sax, Mexico City Blues, Maggie Cassidy
  • 1958 Lawrence Lipton: The Holy Barbarians
  • 1959 Ken Kesey participates in CIA-financed study (Project MKULTRA) at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital

1960-1980

  • Military Budget is 49.7% of U.S. budget
  • 1960 SLATE opposed the hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in San Francisco
  • 1960 First oral contraceptive licensed
  • 1960 Allen Watts’ Beat Zen, Square Zen & Zen
  • 1960 Kerouac Visions of Cody The Scripture of Golden Eternity 
  • 1960 Ginsberg’s Kaddish 
  • 1960 Timothy Leary, 39, tries psilocybin mushrooms in Cuernavaca
  • The Village Vanguard in New York
  • 1961 Bob Dylan appears in Greenwich Village
  • 1961 Beatles debut at the Cavern Club
  • April 9th 1962 Hundreds of folksingers protest by playing music in the Washington Square Park: Police respond violently: New York Mirror headline: “3000 Beatniks Riot in Village”
  • September 26th 1961 Bob Dylan plays Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwhich Village
  • 1961, Women Strike for Peace (WSP) organised about 50,000 women to march and gather at the foot of the Washington Monument: largest national women’s peace protest of the 20th century
  • The Harvard Psilocybin Project
  • 1961 Neal Cassady visits Ken Kesey at Perry Lane
  • 1962 Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 
  • 1962 Leary and Alpert founded the International Foundation for Internal Freedom
  • 1962 Joan Baez on the cover of Time Magazine
  • 1963 Thich Quang Duc immolates himself
  • 1964 Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changin’
  • 1964 Beatles Arrive in US
  • 1964 Jean-Paul Sartre refuses the Nobel Prize for literature
  • 1964 Kesey & Merry Pranksters’ Magic Bus trip
  • October 1st 1964 Birth of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley: Police Car holding Jack Weinberg is surrounded by 3000 demonstrating students for 32 hours
  • December 2nd 1964 Joan Baez sings on Sproul Hall steps
  • December 4th 1964 9000 students boycott classes
  • December 10th 1964 Martin Luther King is awarded Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1964 US Supreme Court allows use of Peyote for Religious Practice
  • August 7th 1964 Congress passes “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: Declatation of War on North Vietnam
  • 1964 Wilderness Act of 1964: The Wilderness is brought into the Political Sphere
  • 1964 Los Angeles Psychiatrist Sidney Cohen publishes The Beyond Within: The LSD Story based on his research at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles
  • 1964 Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters come together
  • 1965 US Starts bombing North Vietnam
  • Bill Ham’s Psychedelic light shows
  • 1965 Michael Fallon applies “hippie” to San Francisco counterculture
  • 1965 Vietnam War Protests (teach-ins, marches) in 80 cities
  • 1965 Jack Campbell opens health club in Cleaveland, Ohio
  • November 1st 1965 Norman Morrison immolates himself below Secretary of Defense McNamara’s Pentagon window to protest Vietnam War
  • November 27th 1965 March on Washington for Peace in Vietnam
  • 1966 Jefferson Airplane
  • 1966 The Beatles release Revolver
  • 1966 25 “Beatnicks” busted from 408 Ashbury
  • 1966 Timothy Leary sentenced in Texas to 30 years
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • The Velvet Underground and The Mothers perform at the Fillmore
  • Summer of 1966: Haight Ashbury, The San Francisco Diggers
  • 1966 Timothy Leary holds press conference for League of Spiritual Discovery, “Turn on, tune in, drop out”
  • October 6th 1966 LSD is made illegal in the US: Allen Cohen and Michael Bowen produce Love Pageant Rally
  • November 5th 1966 Walk for Love and Peace and Freedom
  • 1967 Beat Poet’s benefit for the Diggers
  • Arlo Guthrie: Alice’s Restaurant
  • 1967 Lenore Kandel’s The Love Book is Declared obscene
  • 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival
  • 1967 Human Be-in
  • 1967 Joan Baez + 122 arrested at Oakland Induction Center
  • MLK announces Poor People’s Campaign
  • 1967 Exorcism of the Pentagon
  • Abbie Hoffman and the Yuppies
  • Stewart Brand’s Trips Fest
  • September, 1967, “The Advocate” sells out all 300 copies
  • 1968 Diane Di Prima’s Revolutionary Letters
  • 1968 Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is published
  • 1968 Reverend Troy Perry starts the Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles
  • 1968 Houston, TX: Several women arrested on charges of cross-dressing
  • Lesbian Land Movement
  • late 60’s Red Army Faction first generation
  • Late 60’s: Occult Rock
  • 1965 Frank Kameny organizes a picket of the White House
  • 1967 Summer of Love
  • 1967 Gordon Wasson’s Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality 
  • 1968 American Indian Movement (AIM), a Native American civil rights activist organization is founded in hopes to encourage self-determination amongst dehumanized Native people whom have suffered such great oppression and brutality in the past 500 years
  • May 15, 1969 “Bloody Thursday” People’s Park, Berkeley, CA
  • June 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City
  • August 1969 Woodstock Music Festival
  • December 4, 1969 Fred Hampton is killed under the orders of Nixon’s “COINTELPRO” program
  • 1970’s Lesbian Land Movement: Women of the counterculture seeking to live closer to nature and away from anyone and anything perpetuating patriarchal power; click to read an excellent work by Heather Jo Burmeister detailing the lesbian rural revolution, and discussing the creation of a lesbian culture
  • 1971 The Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center opens
  • 1971 Gay House established in Minnesota
  • 1971 Michael Foucault Debates Noam Chompsky on Human Nature: Interesting discussion points about creativity: Click here to watch with subtitles (make sure closed captions are on)
  • 1971 Johnny Thunders in the New York Dolls releases Debut album
  • PFLAG holds its first meeting
  • Rainbow Family Gathering unites for the first time at Los Angeles Drum Circle in summer of ’72
  • 1973 American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from official list of mental disorders
  • 1973 200 Sioux Natives and members of American Indian Movement seized and occupied the tiny village of Wounded Knee, South Dakota for seventy-one days in hopes to review over 300 treaties that the Federal Gov. broke, which became one of the more recent great massacres of Native peoples by US Cavalry.
  • 1974 The first known of punk band consisted of three African American men from Detroit known as “Death”
  • 1974 “The Ramones” form in Queens, New York
  • 1975 Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish is published
  • 1975 “Sex Pistols” form in London
  • 1975 “The Screamers” form in Seattle, WA
  • 1976 Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality is published
  • 1976 “Joy Division” forms in Salford, UK
  • 1976 “Siouxsie and the Banshees” forms in London
  • 1976 “Black Flag” forms in Hermosa Beach, California
  • 1976 “Buzzcocks” form in Bolton, UK
  • 1976 “Dead Boys” form IN Cleveland, Ohio
  • 1977 “Crass” forms
  • 1977 “X” forms in Los Angeles
  • 1977 “Bad Brains” forms in Washington D.C.
  • 1978 Harvey Milk is assassinated by former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White
  • 1978 Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann, and Carl A. Ruck’s The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries suggests that the “kykeon”, an integral component of the initiation ceremonies of the Ancient Greek cult of Demeter (which highly influenced Socrates), contained eroline alkaloids from the fungus Ergot: click to read in full
  • 1978 Arthur Scott Evans’ Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture
  • 1978 “Dead Kennedy’s” form in San Francisco, CA
  • 1979 “White Night” Riots
  • 1979 The Spiritual Conference for Radical Fairies (it is interesting to note the presence of more nature/based spiritual practice in queer community, in the wake of the counter-cultural psycho-spiritual enlightenment)
  • 1979 “Christian Death” forms in Los Angeles
  • 1979 The “Circle Jerks” form in Los Angeles, CA
  • 1979 Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedy’s runs for Mayor of San Francisco, coming out the leading runner-up

1980-2000

  • 1980 The Edward Carpenter Community of Gay Men is founded (still exists today, check out their website)
  • 1980 “Subhumans” form in Wiltshire, UK
  • early 80’s “Sex Gang Children” forms in England
  • 1981 The Department of Defense adopts a new ban on homosexuals in the military
  • 1981 Timothy Curran sues Boy Scouts of America for ousting him due to his sexuality
  • 1982 Nearly 800 people are infected with what is initially referred to as “GRID (Gay-Related Immunodeficiency)”, which is changed to AIDS by the end of the year
  • 1982 “Alien Sex Fiend” forms in London
  • 1985 William S. Burroughs’ Queer is published, though it was written between 1951-53
  • 1985 New York City shuts down its Bathhouses
  • April 1st, 1985 The Harvey Milk School for gay and lesbian teenagers holds its first classes in a New York City Greenwhich Village Church
  • 1985 First international conference on AIDS in Atlanta
  • 1985 “L7” forms in Los Angeles
  • 1986 The Justice Department releases a policy statement justifying AIDS-based employment bias
  • 1986 California voters reject an initiative to quarantine those with AIDS  by a margin of 71% to 29%
  • October 11th, 1987
  • 1987 ACT-UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) forms in New York
  • 1988 First issue of Homocore Zine: Inspiration for the Queercore counterculture
  • February 28, 1993 ATF launched 51 day siege on a compound with a family of eighty Branch Dividians in Waco, Texas which resulted in the bombing and burning of the compound and the death of over 80 women children and men. Watch the Documentary “Waco: The Rules of Engagement” (1997).
  • 1994 “The Misfits” form – “progenitors of horror punk”
  • 1996 Tupac Shakur’s death – A COINTELPRO operation
  • 1996 Alan Ginsberg releases Ballad of Skeletons
  • 1998 Leftover Crack forms in New York City (check out Gay Rude Boys Unite)
  • Robert Forte’s Entheogens and the Future of Religion
  • 2000 “Dresden Dolls” form in Boston

Biographies (click here for more information on key persons mentioned in the timeline)

Glossary of Terms

Because this timeline covers a wide time span, we felt it was important to focus heavily on counter culture in the early to mid 20th century, as this has set the stage for the counter cultural matrix of today that is in some ways more easily accessible because of the internet than counter-cultural resources released into human consciousness before the internet boom, which we are very interested in remembering, preserving and connecting to counterculture today. 


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