Introduction & Executive Summary

The Counterculture was an anti-establishment movement that began in the 1960s. It was born out of the rise of the New Left and the fracturing of the New Deal coalition. The New Left and Counterculture movements were comprised primarily of students and young adults who were frustrated with the society they were living in. These were the baby boomers, the ones who grew up in a time of affluence and consensus culture. These disaffected young Americans saw problems in society such as segregation, discrimination, and over extension of executive power and sought to combat them through the creation of movements. This movement of movements was comprised of the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s movement, the Gay Rights movement, and the Anti-Vietnam movement, amongst hundreds of others.

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There were several ways in which members of the New Left protested. Many within this group sought to change government, fixing problems within the existing system. They protested, held rallies, and lead marches against injustice. The Counterculture movement took a different approach to protest, instead preferring to withdraw from society. To them, politics was secondary to style and culture. Their main focus was increasing authenticity by living independently from consumer society. Both sides leading the anti-establishment movement in the 1960s and 70s had their leaders, icons, and figureheads. Millions across the United States supported and defended their rights through these movements. However, these movements would not have been so successful without popular support. While the populist message of these movements was strong, they were able to best gain support and mobilization through culture. Specifically, music was a way of bringing random and diverse groups from across the country together.

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This theme is important because of the effect that the growing music industry had on the way young Americans interact with each other and the government. Music creates a “we” mentality and a sense of collective identity, especially when listened to in group settings such as concerts and festivals. It binds not only the listeners together, but also gives the audience a sense of being connected to the artists performing. It gives people power to speak up when sometimes ordinary words won’t do. It also connects people across the country and world, uniting them under a common cause. FM radio, though developed in the 1930s, reached popularity in the late 1960s. It was seen as the “underground radio” where the music played was less restricted and covered more controversial matters. Young Americans who were already critical of the existing culture now received more “anti-government” themes through the music played on the radio. Radio as a medium and music as a media form were highly influential in rallying protesters and bringing attention to important political issues that would not be featured through other mediums. Artists, specifically in rock and roll, were able to spark social change through their lyrics, which continues into our popular music culture today. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, millions of young Americans used music as an outlet for political commentary.


Group Members:

Alexaner Olesen Peter Ferramosca
Brett Dewing Rachel Harvey
Caroline Crossman Rachel Palmer
Hanna Krzywicki Shayla Burnham
Julia Gowell Taylor Fielman
Kienan Adams