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A female demonstrator offers a flower to military police at an anti-Vietnam War protest in Arlington, Virginia, 21 October 1967

Flower power was a slogan used by the American counterculture movement during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a symbol of passive resistance and non-violence ideology.[1] It is rooted in the opposition movement to the Vietnam War.[2] The expression was coined by the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in 1965 as a means to transform war protests into peaceful affirmative spectacles.[3][4][5] Hippies embraced the symbolism by dressing in clothing with embroidered flowers and vibrant colors, wearing flowers in their hair, and distributing flowers to the public, becoming known as flower children.[6] The term later became generalized as a modern reference to the hippie movement and a culture of drugs, psychedelic music, psychedelic art and social permissiveness.[7]



Flower Power originated in Berkeley, California as a symbolic action of protest against the Vietnam War. In his November 1965 essay titled How to Make a March/Spectacle, Ginsberg advocated that protesters should be provided with "masses of flowers" to hand out to policemen, press, politicians and spectators.[8] The use of props like flowers, toys, flags, candy and music were meant to turn anti-war rallies into a form of street theater thereby reducing the fear, anger and threat that is inherent within protests.[9] In particular, Ginsberg wanted to counter the "specter" of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang who supported the war and had threatened to violently disrupt planned anti-war demonstrations at the University of California, Berkeley.[10] Using Ginsberg's methods, the protest received positive attention and the use of "flower power" became an integral symbol in the counter-culture movement.[11]


"The cry of 'Flower Power' echoes through the land. We shall not wilt. Let a thousand flowers bloom."

Abbie Hoffman, Workshop in Nonviolence, May 1967

By late 1966, the Flower Power method of guerilla theater had spread from California to other parts of the United States. The Bread and Puppet Theater in New York City staged numerous protests which including handing out balloons and flowers with their anti-war literature.[12] Workshop in Nonviolence (WIN), a magazine published by New York activists, encouraged the use of Flower Power. In May 1967, Abbie Hoffman organized the Flower Brigade as an official contingent of a New York City parade honoring the soldiers in Vietnam. News coverage captured Flower Brigade participants, who carried flowers, flags and pink posters imprinted with LOVE, being attacked and beaten by bystanders.[12] In response to the violence, Hoffman wrote in WIN magazine, "Plans are being made to mine the East River with daffodils. Dandelion chains are being wrapped around induction centers.... The cry of 'Flower Power' echoes through the land. We shall not wilt."

On the following Sunday in May 1967, WIN activists declared the Armed Forces Day as "Flower Power Day" and held a rally in Central Park to counter the traditional parade. Turnout was low and, according to Hoffman, the rally was ineffective because guerilla theater needed to be more confrontational.[12][13]

In October 1967, Hoffman and Jerry Rubin helped organize the March on the Pentagon using Flower Power concepts to create a theatrical spectacle.[14] The idea included a call for marchers to attempt to levitate the Pentagon. When the marchers faced off against more than 2500 Army national guard troops forming a human barricade in front of the Pentagon, demonstrators placed flowers in the soldier's rifle barrels.[15]

Flower Power, a Pulitzer-nominated photograph by Washington Star photographer Bernie Boston, became a classic image of the Vietnam War era protests.[16] The photo, taken on October 21, 1967 at the "March on the Pentagon", showed a young, long-haired man in a turtleneck sweater, placing carnations into the rifle barrels of military policemen. (The young man was identified later as George Edgerly Harris III, an 18-year-old actor from New York who was on his way to San Francisco and later performed there under the stage name of Hibiscus.[17].)


The iconic center of the flower power movement was the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco, California.[18][19] By the mid-1960s, the area, marked by the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets, had become a focal point for psychedelic rock music.[20] Musicians and bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin all lived a short distance from the famous intersection. During the 1967 Summer of Love, thousands of hippies gathered there, popularized by hit songs such as San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair). A July 7, 1967, Time magazine cover story on "The Hippies: Philosophy of a Subculture," and an August CBS News television report on "The Hippie Temptation"[21] as well as other major media interest exposed the hippie subculture to national attention and popularized the flower power movement across the country and around the world.


  1. ^ Stuart Hall, "The Hippies: An American Moment" published in Ann Gray (Ed.), CCCS Selected Working Papers, Routledge, (December 20, 2007), p.155 ISBN 0415324416
  2. ^ Chatarji, Subarno, Memories of a Lost War: American Poetic Responses to the Vietnam War, Oxford University Press, 2001, p.42 ISBN 0199247110
  3. ^ "Allen Ginsburg", American Masters, Public Broadcasting System,, retrieved 30-04-2009
  4. ^ [ "Guide to the Allen Ginsberg Papers: Biography/Administrative History"], The Online Archive of California, Stanford University, 2009
  5. ^ Tony Perry, "Poet Allen Ginsberg Dies at 70", Los Angeles Times, April 06, 1997
  6. ^ Rennay Craats, History of the 1960s, Weigl Publishers Inc., 2001, p.36 ISBN 1930954298
  7. ^ Heilig, S., "The Brotherhood of Eternal Love-From Flower Power to Hippie Mafia: The Story of LSD Counterculture", Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2007, Vol 39; No 3, pages 307-308
  8. ^ Ginsberg, Allen, "Demonstration or Spectacle as Example, As Communication, or How to Make a March/Spectacle", Berkeley Barb, November 19, 1965, republished in The Portable Sixties Reader, Ann Charles (Ed.), Penguin Classic, 2002, p.208-212 ISBN 9780142001943
  9. ^ Ben Shepard,"Absurd Responses vs. Earnest Politics", Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Volume 1, Issue 2, January 2003
  10. ^ Lewis Hyde, On the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, University of Michigan Press (January 1, 1985), p264 , ISBN 0472063537
  11. ^ William Lawlor, Beat culture: lifestyles, icons, and impact, ABC-CLIO (2005), p.126 ISBN 1851094008
  12. ^ a b c Marty Jezer, Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel, p.115
  13. ^ Richard M. Freid, The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!: Pageantry and Patriotism in Cold-War America, Oxford University Press, (1999), p.141, ISBN 0195134176
  14. ^ James J. Farrell, The Spirit of the Sixties: The Making of Postwar Radicalism, Routledge, 1997, p.223
  15. ^ Carlito Rivera, "The 1967 March on the Pentagon and lessons for today" , Socialism and Liberation Magazine, March 2007, retrieved 26-09-2009
  16. ^ Bernie Boston, "Flower Power", The Washington Evening Star, October 21, 1967
  17. ^ "Flowers, Guns and an Iconic Snapshot" Washington Post, March 18, 2007; Page D04
  18. ^ Anthony Ashbolt, "Go Ask Alice: Remembering the Summer of Love", Australasian Journal of American Studies, December 2007, p.35-47
  19. ^ Mandalit del Barco, "Haight-Ashbury a Flower-Power Holdover", Morning Edition, National Public Radio, July 2, 2007
  20. ^ Charles Perry, The Haight Ashbury: A History, Wenner Books; Reprint edition (30 Mar 2007), 320pp , ISBN 193295855X
  21. ^ Harry Reasoner, "The Hippie Temptation", CBS News, August 22, 1967

Further reading

  • Bennett M. Berger, "Hippie morality—more old than new ",Society, Volume 5, Number 2 / December, 1967
  • Stuart Hall, "The Hippies: an American 'moment'", CCCS selected working papers, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Routledge, 2007, ISBN 0415324416

Simple English

"Flower Power" was a 1960s catchphrase, used by hippies and other people who were against war and violence. These people used flowers as a symbol of life, of love, and of peace. They wore flowers, made art with flowers and images of them, and gave them away often. Hippies sometimes placed flowers in the rifle barrels of marching soldiers.

Folk musician Donovan was one of the musical performers associated with flower power.

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