Ten Years That Shook the City

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The pages in this category are from "Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968-78" (published by City Lights Foundation, 2011). It is a collection of historical essays that starts in 1968, the year of the San Francisco State College Strike, and runs to 1978, when the twin traumas of Jonestown and the assassinations of Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk punctuate a tumultuous and influential decade. These are ten years that shook and shaped the City today. Few of the essays stick to that time-frame rigorously, most having to look before 1968 or go beyond 1978 (or both) to fully make sense. The 1960s is a seminal decade in world history, and it is sometimes defined as running to 1972 or even 1974 in a “long Sixties” perspective. But this is a book more about the 1970s, when many of the initiatives described here came to climaxes, sometimes deepening and evolving from their initial impetus into lasting cultural and institutional forms. The popular explosions and experiments of the era morphed and were taken in by the larger culture, or found ways to survive in its margins. From today’s organic food and community gardening movements to environmental justice, gay rights and other identitarian social movements, neighborhood anti-gentrification efforts, and much more, the 1970s are the years when transformative social values burrowed deeply into society.

New understandings of politics and history have their roots in this era, too. Previously excluded populations became vocal and insistent, reshaping urban politics and reorienting the framing of history itself. The deep distrust of government at all levels dates to this period, whether in response to the national government’s venality in Vietnam and subsequent Watergate scandals, or the local government’s unabashed efforts to dismantle working-class neighborhoods through redevelopment.