Harvey Milk at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978; photo: Terru Schmitt, courtesy the San Francisco Chronicle
A New Kind of Migrant – The Counterculture and Social Movements of the 60s and 70s
San Francisco and the Summer of Love
Beginning in the 1960s, a different kind of migrant came to California by the thousands. Influenced by the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements, young people from all over the country and western Europe headed to San Francisco looking for kindred spirits and a new way of life.
They were drawn by television coverage and Life magazine photos showing an exciting new world emerging in the Bay Area. New publications such as the Berkeley Barb and Rolling Stone helped to advertise San Francisco as the place to be if you wanted to change the world — and yourself. Most of them came to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco, home to the biggest musical artists of the day — Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead, among others.
Top 10 pop songs also called for young people to drop what they were doing and head to San Francisco during the Summer of Love in 1967. In the hit song "San Francisco Nights," English musician Eric Burdon, lead singer of The Animals, encouraged young people throughout the world to "Save up all your bread and fly TransLove Airways to San Francisco" for the Summer of Love. And come they did — by plane, train, car, or as hitchhikers.
Although other progressive social movements of the 20th century had helped shape San Francisco, these young hippies and progressives claimed their own stake in California, changing San Francisco forever. Most returned home after that summer, but a great number stayed to help form what many believe to be the most progressive city in the nation.
In the 1970s the vision of the San Francisco Bay Area as a beacon of tolerance and progressive thinking also drew great numbers of gay men and lesbians, who came to make their own impression on the state. Others came to California to participate in the growing New Age movement that challenged conventional ways of life.