The Legacy of the 1960s Cultural Revolution

In the 1960s, pop culture acted as an avenue in which messages and calls for change were often referenced. This helped fuel the fire of the cultural revolution which gave the decade a defining characteristic. Afterwards, entering the mid 1970s and early 1980s, conservatism was regaining its strength after the long stretch of liberal advocacy, leaving the lasting legacy of the 1960s to be wavering (“Another Dream for America: The Conservative Vision”). However, today the cultural revolution and its involvement in 1960s popular culture is remembered well. Both their importance to the era at that time as well as to the one today are widely recognized in multiple ways.

Screenshot 2018-06-18 at 12.07.18 PMThe Victoria and Albert Museum in London held an exhibit on the revolutionary sixties. Titled “You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970,” the exhibit highlights cultural revolution seen in the youth fashion, music, film, and political activism (“V&A · About You Say You Want a Revolution? Exhibition”). The exhibit aims to answer the question “how have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today and think about the future?” by showing the relics and revolutions of the sixties (“V&A · You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970”). Co-curator Victoria Brockes describes the success of the exhibit in answering that question. She says:

“We are looking at how those revolutions actually fed into what was overall a change in people’s outlook, an I think the key thing for that is that people in this period no longer thought that the establishment or authority ought to tell them what was best, that they would from that point on would make their own minds up and that is the world we have been living in since”(Allsop)

This exhibit in particular is able to give its viewers the ability to answer the question regarding the legacy of the 1960s cultural revolutions and its effect today. This era brought about the legalization of homosexuality, the equal pay act for women, and the divorce reform act, feeding into a more liberal climate. Reforms brought about in the 1960s got the ball moving and continued to provoke people to fight for change. In the 21st century there has been the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states in 2015 and continued fights for women’s rights within a new context. Much of what the nation is like today is in part to the developments and the revolutionary ideas that the sixties brought and encouraged. This relationship is both understood and respected and exhibits like these help to remind what influence the culture of the 1960s has on today’s society.

Pop culture moments of the 1960s also continue to be analyzed for both their meaning and role in the era. Successful documentary series such as CNN’s The Sixties and 1968: The Year that Changed America do just that, affirming the importance of these moments to the era. Episodes such as “Television Comes of Age,” “1968,” “The Times, They are A Changin,” and “Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll” each highlight the development of pop culture and how it expressed the changes and movements occurring at the time. The episodes also explored how these expressions affected both the 1960s and today’s society. The CNN’s documentaries were presented on a large platform as views were high. CNN earned a No.1 program rating for cable news the night its first episode of The Sixties had aired. CNN finished second with 1.4 million total viewers for all of the season, a 312% increase compared to the prior 4 week average (Maglio). With thousands of people being reminded about the changes that came in the 1960s, attitudes which aid in giving the era a label of effective and long lasting revolution are strengthened.

Movements of the 1960s continued to be remembered in the places that they occurred. Screenshot 2018-06-18 at 12.09.06 PMSan Francisco, California was home to a distinctive part of the decade: hippies. The hippies were a group of young people who exposed the inadequacies of the the establishment and encouraged the saying, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” The community began to grow as it was rid of greed, loneliness, and other anxieties of the modern world (“Hippies”). What started out as a small community early on continued to grow, giving the region the 1967 Human Be-In in which thousands of people gathered in Golden Gate Park and practiced the free spirit of the hippie. This was a prelude to months of gatherings in San Francisco which became known as the Summer of Love (Summer of Love | American Experience | PBS”). These large gatherings marked San Francisco as the center of the creation of the hippie and the counterculture. Today, just over 50 years after the Summer of Love, San Francisco is remembered as the center of the hippie revolution. In 2017 the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love was celebrated and with it the impact of the era on today was also recognized. The organization Humanities West had coordinated a celebration of the Summer of Love and the counterculture. The day designated to remembering the hippie culture of San Francisco offered exhibits with psychedelic posters and art, images from the Summer of Love, music of the era, and tours through Haight-Ashbury that combined film, music, and locations of the area to highlight the memory of the Summer of Love (“Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Summer of Love”). In an advertising postcard the event was described to “explore San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood as it blossomed into the nexus of 1960s counterculture. [You also] learn about the vibrant forms of cultural expression that defied the status quo of the time, and continue to be relevant today”(“Summer of Love: San Francisco,1967”). The counterculture that defined San Francisco in the 1960s is being remembered as a significant form of expression and impact for both the respective decade and the ones that follow. By experiencing some of the popularly enjoyed activities that the hippies did, such as music and artwork, the legacy and importance of the hippies and counterculture on San Fransisco and the nation are able to be commemorated.

Works Cited

Allsop, Sean. 2018. “V&A Record & Rebels Interview”. Sean Allsop.

“Another Dream for America: The Conservative Vision.” The Sixties in America Reference Library, edited by Sara

Pendergast and Tom Pendergast, vol. 1: Almanac, UXL, 2005, pp. 48-64. U.S. History In Context,

Baker, Francesca. 2018. “You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 @ the V&A – The

State Of The Arts”. The State Of The Arts.

“Hippies.” American Decades, edited by Judith S. Baughman, et al., vol. 7: 1960-1969, Gale, 2001.

U.S. History In Context,

Maglio, Tony et al. 2014. “CNN’s ‘The Sixties’ Tops Night in Demo: Jeff Zucker Touts ‘This Is What CNN Is

All About'”. TheWrap.

“Summer of Love | American Experience | PBS”.

“Summer of Love: San Francisco,1967”.

“V&A · You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970”. Victoria and Albert Museum.

“V&A · About You Say You Want a Revolution? Exhibition”. Victoria and Albert Museum.

“Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Summer of Love”. San Francisco Travel.