"The American Revolution" is a feature-length documentary film produced for festival, theatrical, and broadcast release by the Peabody Award-winning Lichtenstein Creative Media. Long before Facebook and MySpace, free-form, underground radio station WBCN-FM was a powerful cultural, political and social medium that connected its listeners in the Boston/Cambridge area. "The American Revolution" chronicles WBCN during the years 1968 to 1974, examining the station's role in both covering and promoting the profound cultural, social and political changes that took place during that era. "The American Revolution" is designed to be the first "open source documentary" as part of its core mission, by engaging those who have photos, audio tapes, film, memorabilia and first-person accounts of that era, both in Boston and nationally, to share them for possible use in the film. By doing so, the film, like the station itself, will provide a chance for creative collaboration between producers and audience. Archival material will be posted here daily, so return often. And share your photos, graphics, audio, and video to be a part of this landmark film at www.WBCNthefilm.com (c) 2011 Lichtenstein Creative Media All Rights Reserved.
Support for the non-profit production of "The American Revolution" has been provided by Mass Humanities; Dan Beach; Mitchell Kertzman; and SmartOps. Additional funding from Jeffrey Rawson; Norm Rosen; Scott Feldman; Lauren Chiaramonte; and Lauren Glassman. Legal assistance by Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. "The American Revolution" is a 501(c)(3) non-profit fiscal project of Filmmakers' Collaborative.
Created by lcmedia on Mar 27, 2010
Last updated: 04/12/14 at 10:37 AM
On April 12, 1989, Worcester, MA native Abbie Hoffman died from a drug overdose. A hero of the 1960s counter culture, Hoffman once told a reporter, "I never left Worcester." He was 30 when he moved to New York and co-founded the Yippie movement. One of the Chicago Eight tried for conspiring to disrupt the 1968 Democratic Party Convention, Hoffman was acquitted on all charges. Five years later, he was charged with selling cocaine. He went underground and stayed there for seven years. Even while a fugitive, he managed occasional visits to Worcester. After his death, his brother remembered that "one of the happiest days of his life was [the day] the mayor presented him with a key to the city." -------------------------------------- Abbie Hoffman assumed many identities: social activist, anarchist, impostor, outlaw, comedian, and, in the minds of some, tragic hero. His biographer and longtime friend, Jonah Raskin, admits that it was nearly impossible to know "the real Abbie Hoffman" but suggests that Hoffman saw himself as "just a Jewish kid from Worcester." Abbot Hoffman was born in Worcester in 1936 and spent more than half of his life there. Until he was 30, Worcester was the center of his universe; when he moved to New York in 1966, Worcester remained a haven. Even during his years as a fugitive, he would slip back into town and gather with old friends at his favorite restaurant, El Morocco. Raskin explains that "Worcester provided him with his view of society and his way of dealing with the world." Abbie's grandfather was a Russian-born Jew who moved to Worcester about 1910 and, in classic immigrant fashion, set himself up as a street peddler. His father Johnnie Hoffman became a leader in the Jewish community but also wanted to be accepted by the city's gentile elite as well. Johnnie Hoffman joined the Rotary Club, voted Republican, and avoided any connection to the radical organizations supported by many other immigrants. Young Abbie found his father's desire to assimilate disturbing. Abbie admired and imitated his father's skill at crossing social boundaries, but he never gave up his sense of himself as "a Jewish outsider, exile, and wanderer." The Hoffman family was upwardly mobile, middle class, and respectable — except for Abbie, the eldest of three children. He instinctively resisted authority and mortified his parents by his talent for trouble. The more Johnnie Hoffman tried to make his son conform, the more defiant Abbie became. By high school he had earned, deservedly, a reputation as a rebel. He was a natural comedian, a cut-up who cracked jokes, disrupted class, used obscenities, smoked in the lavatory, dressed like a hoodlum, drove a motorcycle, and picked up girls. His friends called him "Mr. Cool" and regarded him as a hero. An excellent student, he entered Brandeis University in Waltham in 1955. In the late 1950s the Brandeis faculty included a number of radical intellectuals. Studying with them convinced Abbie Hoffman that it was his destiny to stand out, not blend in, and he began to think analytically about social change. After graduation, he went on to the University of California at Berkeley to get a masters degree in psychology. He returned to Worcester in 1960, married his college sweetheart, and began working as a psychologist at Worcester State Hospital. He also became a social activist. He wrote for an underground newspaper, The Worcester Punch, and helped found Prospect House, which served the low-income community. He devoted most of his energy to the burgeoning civil rights movement, joining the national civil rights group, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). A local reporter would later remember, "He was the No. 1 civil rights leader in Worcester before Worcester knew [it] had a racial problem." In 1965 he was one of many white northerners who participated in SNCC's activities in Mississippi, where the institutionalized violence and racism appalled him. Hoffman was 30 and recently divorced when he left Worcester in December 1966. He headed to New York City. Rejecting both the brutality and emptiness of American life, he proposed a cultural revolution. Together with Jerry Rubin, he founded the Yippies (Youth International Party), an anarchist group that espoused sexual freedom, drugs, rock music, street theater, and political revolution "just for the hell of it." By 1967, Abbie Hoffman had become a household name. Hoffman was a genius at using the media to draw attention to himself and his causes. He devised outrageous stunts — such as dropping fistfuls of dollar bills from the gallery of the NY Stock Exchange and filming the brokers frenzy to catch them. He led 50,000 anti-war protesters in an "exorcism" of the Pentagon; the crowd attempted to elevate the thinking of Defense Department officials by applying collective psychic power. Although Hoffman's pranks were often comical, his motivation was deeply serious. "I grew up thinking democracy is not some place you hang your hat . . . It's something you do," he wrote in his autobiography. In August of 1968, the Yippies organized a Festival of Life to coincide with the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Their circus-like activities disrupted the convention and led to a violent confrontation between protestors and police. Hoffman and seven others — "the Chicago Eight" — were arrested and tried for inciting a riot. The nationally-televised trial was just the kind of public exposure Hoffman craved; he was eventually acquitted on all charges. In the late 1960s, he began putting his ideas into books. Revolution for the Hell of It (1968), Woodstock Nation (1969), and Steal this Book (1971) all sold well, but Hoffman had a drug habit to feed. A heavy drug user since moving to New York, he was arrested for cocaine trafficking in 1973. He went underground to avoid a mandatory life sentence, had plastic surgery, and emerged as "Barry Freed," an ecological activist. Hoffman came out of hiding in 1980, served a brief prison sentence, and then attempted to revive his career as a campus activist. His first appearance was at Clark University in Worcester. But times had changed, and Hoffman found few students who were interested in his radical creed. He had suffered for years from bi-polar disorder, and by 1989 was overwhelmed by depression. On April 12, 1989, he took a massive drug overdose and died. The memorial service was held in his hometown, because, his brother said, Abbie "loved Worcester." Mourners were invited to join a peace march from his boyhood home to the synagogue where he had been bar mitzvahed 40 years before. Two hundred people were expected; over 900 came. While many in Worcester and throughout the country considered Abbie Hoffman a dangerous radical, others admired him as a man who had the courage to question the status quo. Sources: Mass Humanities For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman, by Jonah Raskin (University of California Press, 1997). Soon to be a Major Motion Picture, by Abbie Hoffman (Putnam, 1980). Steal this Dream: Abbie Hoffman and the Countercultural Revolution in America, by Larry Sloman (Doubleday, 1998). The Boston Globe, April 13, 14, 20, and 27, 1989. Worcester Telegram and Gazette, April 13, 17 and 20, 1989 Photo courtesy of Majunznk
"May Day, living up to all expectations, got the worst reviews of any demonstration in history. It was universally panned as the worst planned, worst executed, most slovenly, strident and obnoxious peace action ever committed." So wrote Mary McGrory, a perceptive columnist and long-time dove. But Mayday was not designed to win accolades in the press; rather it was designed to help end the war, a different purpose. The demonstrators, Miss McGrory wrote, many of whom "had shaved and spruced up for Eugene McCarthy…hope that the people will eventually make the connection between a bad war and a bad demonstration and they think they've provided an additional reason for getting out. They've introduced the element of blackmail into the situation. They know everyone wanted them to go away. All they ask is that people remember it was the war that brought them here." - Noam Chomsky, New York Review of Books, June 17, 1971. See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1971/jun/17/a-special-supplement-mayday-the-case-for-civil-dis/ ------------------------------------------------ May Day was the largest and most audacious civil disobedience action in American history. It was also one of the least remembered of the mass Vietnam protests having slipped into almost complete historical obscurity. It was a protest against the Vietnam War. In Boston, protesters, largely college students, attempted to shut down the John F. Kennedy Federal Building. From BNET and image from foundsf.org
Eight months after the May 4, 1970 Kent State Massacre, Neil Young performs "Ohio" at Massey Hall in Toronto, Ontario, as part of his "Journey Through the Past Solo Tour." For Allison, Sandra, Jeffrey and Bill, who never got to hear it. See more at "The American Revolution" website.
The Grateful Dead, both as rock band and countercultural standard bearer, performed outside the student center at Kresge Plaza on the M.I.T. campus in Cambridge, MA, on May 6, 1970. It was a national day of mourning and protests at colleges across the country, including at M.I.T., in response to the escalation of the Vietnam War, the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, and the tragic killing two days earlier of four anti-war protesters by U.S. National Guard troops at Kent State University, in Ohio. The Grateful Dead were scheduled to play a paid concert in M.I.T.'s Dupont Gym the following night. However, since they were in the area the day before, they set up outdoors on M.I.T.'s Kresge Plaza in front of the Stratton Student Center to play a free afternoon concert for the crowd at the anti-war protest rally. The performance was cut short due to cold rain. A tape from the band's sound mixing board remained at the M.I.T. student radio station. From MIT 150 Exhibition and Eli Polonsky/WMBR "Lost and Found."
(Photo: Students prepare for strike at Boston University in wake of Kent State shootings. Photo: (c) 1970 Peter Simon)
"The Kent State University shootings involved the killing of four unarmed college students by members of the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.
Some of the students who were shot had been protesting against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Richard Nixon announced in a television address on April 30, but other students who were shot were walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance.
There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected the public debate, already highly polarized and contentious, over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War." - Wikipedia.
Video credits: Audio excepted from "Four More Years," produced by Bill Lichtenstein for WBCN News, 1972. Photos (c) 1970 Howard Ruffner.
The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was a large demonstration against the United States involvement in the Vietnam War that took place across the United States on October 15, 1969.[ The Moratorium developed from Jerome Grossman's April 20 1969 call for a general strike if the war had not concluded by October. By the standards of previous anti-war demonstrations, the event was a clear success, with millions participating throughout the world. Boston was the site of the largest turnout; about 100,000 attended a speech by anti-war Senator George McGovern. The first nationwide Moratorium was followed a month later, on November 15, 1969, by a second massive Moratorium march on Washington, D.C. which attracted over 500,000 demonstrators against the war, including many performers and activists on stage at a rally across from the White House. Among the performers were Peter, Paul and Mary, who mixed music with political and social activism. In 1963, the trio marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama, and Washington DC. The three participated in countless demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. They sang at the 1969 March on Washington, which Mr. Yarrow helped to organize. (Wikipeida; The New York Times, 31 July 1994)
The famous "clenched fist," which along with the two fingered ":peace sign" became an iconic symbol of the 1960s counterculture, was created by a Harvard student, Harvey Hacker, for the April 9, 1969 student strike at the university. It was made famous silk screened on T-Shirts and denim jackets, as well as on the poster that announced the demands of the Harvard student strike.
History of the Clenched Fist: http://www.docspopuli.org/articles/Fist.html
In 1969, Harvard students took over University Hall, one of the college's oldest buildings in opposition to the escalating war in Vietnam, and demanded Harvard end its Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, program. The demonstrators had vowed non-violent resistance, but in the early hours of April 10th, university administrators made the unprecedented decision to call in city and state police. The use of billy clubs and mace to remove the demonstrators outraged even those members of the community who did not support the takeover. The sit-in at Harvard and the so-called "bust" that ended it were part of a national phenomenon, but, as one participant put it, "Like it or not, whatever goes on at Harvard gets a lot of attention." On the same day students at Boston University were conducting a tactical retreat after occupying a building for 2½ hours in a protest against the Vietnam War, across the river in Cambridge approximately 30 Harvard students staged a takeover of University Hall, an administrative building located in the middle of historic Harvard Yard. One of many student demonstrations on college campuses that year, the sit-in at Harvard would be short-lived but have lasting consequences. The protest was organized by the Harvard chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Formed at the University of Michigan in 1959, SDS initially concentrated on the Civil Rights Movement. When the war in Vietnam intensified in the mid-1960s, SDS shifted its focus to opposing the war and became increasingly radical. The rest of the Harvard students' demands dealt with the university's role in the local community. They wanted Harvard to lower the rents it charged on the many apartments it owned in Cambridge and sought guarantees that the university would not tear down residential buildings to expand its medical complex in a working-class Boston neighborhood. On noon on April 9th, about 30 students entered University Hall and ejected all administrators and staff from the building "under duress," as one participant described it. Students picked up and carried one dean outside — a scene pictured on the front page of national newspapers and an action for which the students were later severely disciplined. As word of the takeover spread, students and faculty gathered outside. Meanwhile, inside, the students chained the doors shut, raised the red and black SDS flag outside, and began an intense debate about what to do next. Despite administration threats that students would be arrested for trespassing, the number of protesters grew; by nightfall, The Boston Globe estimated that there were 500 inside. At 3 a.m. on April 10th, city and state police heeded Harvard's request to take control of University Hall. The students had vowed non-violent resistance to any attempt to remove them; they formed a human chain across the doorway. Armed with billy clubs and mace, 400 police officers arrested more than 100 protesters. Tension escalated quickly. Students and faculty alike were outraged by the unprecedented exercise of police power on the campus. Students assembled at Memorial Church and called for a three-day strike. The faculty of Arts and Science issued a statement deploring both the "forcible occupation" and "the entry of police into any university." Some professors believed it wrong, some termed it "unwise," and the rest described the police action as "unavoidable though regrettable." The police charged almost all the protesters they had arrested with trespassing. Although the administration requested that the charges be dropped, the presiding judge ruled that 35 demonstrators would stand trial for criminal trespass. Most paid the $20 fine. Those who appealed were successful, since the police had no way of proving who was inside University Hall and who was outside. Three young men faced the more serious charge of assault and battery. Two were convicted and sentenced to nine months in jail. Harvard's own disciplinary proceedings resulted in the expulsion of 23 students, who could apply for readmission in the future, and the permanent expulsion of three others. The campus was almost universally opposed to the administration's actions, and a boycott of classes began. On April 14th, 10,000-12,000 people attended a four-hour meeting at the Harvard Stadium. Six thousand remained by the time the voting began. A series of votes was taken and a motion to continue the strike for another three days finally carried. On the 17th, a smaller crowd of 5,000 attended a second mass meeting at the stadium. They voted by a margin of more than two to one to suspend the strike. The University Hall takeover and the strike that followed produced changes not only in the university's policy toward ROTC but in its governance, curriculum, and community relations as well. The 1969 protest was neither the first nor the last on the Harvard campus. The first major demonstration occurred two centuries earlier in 1766 when students staged "The "Butter Protest," with the rallying cry "Behold, our butter stinketh!" The college responded by expelling 155 students. Source: Mass Humanities (The Boston Globe, April 9 and April 10, 1969; The Harvard Crimson, April 10, 15 and 19, 1969; The Harvard Independent, March 6, 2003; The Harvard Strike, by Lawrence Eichel et. al. Houghton Mifflin, 1970; Phone interview December 23, 2004 with John C. Berg, Professor and Chair, Government Dept., Suffolk University; The Harvard Guide's Finance section)
Summary of major events of 1969 at: http://seniorliving.about.com/od/1969milestones/tp/1969-milestones-in-science-technology.htm
The following sources are from a term paper written by John Smith, a college student in 1969, detailing the year's impact on him:
A Participant's View
--A Case Study by John White--.
Nixon Sworn in as 37th President, Declares Himself to Search for World Peace, New York Times, January 21, 1969
FCC Seeks Ban on Cigarette Ads Over Radio, TV, Washington Post, February 6, 1969.
Troop Cut in Vietnam Is Ruled Out, Washington Post, March 15, 1969.
John Lennon Flies 2,000 Miles to Marry Yoko Ono, London Times, March 21, 1969.
225 Radical Students Picket 8 Buildings at Columbia University, New York Times, March 26, 1969.
Bomb Plot Is Laid to 21 Panthers, New York Times, April 3, 1969.
U.S. Deaths in War Pass Korea Total, New York Times, April 4, 1969.
Thousands March for Peace in Cities Across the Nation, Washington Post, April 6, 1969.
ROTC Foes Seize Harvard Hall, Boston Globe, April 10, 1969.
Jury Finds Sirhan Guilty, Washington Post, April 17, 1969.
Censors Muffle Smothers Brothers, Rolling Stone, April 19, 1969.
Princeton Will Admit Women, New York Times, April 21, 1969.
Many States Enacting Laws to Curb Campus Disorders, Washington Post, June 2, 1969.
Nixon Says Rebels Imperil Education, Washington Post, June 4, 1969.
Hearing Reveals FBI Tapped Rev. King, Washington Post, June 5, 1969.
Nixon to Reduce Vietnam Force, Pulling Out 25,000 GI’s by Aug. 31, New York Times, June 9, 1969.
Is the Earth Safe From Lunar Contamination?, Time Magazine, June 13, 1969.
Rock Rumble in Rip Van Winkle County, Saratogian (N.Y.), July 19, 1969.
Ted Kennedy Escapes, Woman Dies as Car Plunges Into Vineyard Pond, Boston Globe, July 20, 1969.
THE EAGLE HAS LANDED -- Two Men Walk on the Moon, Washington Post, July 21, 1969.
Rock Fest Wins A-OK From Bethel, Times Herald Record (N.Y.) , July 22, 1969.
Promoters Claim They Can Handle 150,000, Times Herald Record (N.Y.), July 23, 1969.
Kennedy Weighs Quitting; Pleads Guilty to Charge, New York Times, July 26, 1969.
Boosting Peace: John & Yoko in Canada, Rolling Stone, July 28, 1969.
Crosby, Stills and Nash Add Young, Rolling Stone, August 9, 1969.
Actress Sharon Tate Is Among 5 Slain at Home in Beverly Hills, New York Times, August 10, 1969.
They Arrive With Fest Tickets, Little Else, Times Herald Record (N.Y.) , August 15, 1969.
400,000+ Flood Site; Rock Crisis Eases Off, Times Herald Record (N.Y.) , August 15, 1969.
Fete on Friday: Freedom, Pot, Skinny-Dipping, Times Herald Record (N.Y.) , August 16, 1969.
It’s an Astonisher! , Times Herald Record (N.Y.) , August 16, 1969.
Promoter Baffled That Festival Drew Such A Crowd, New York Times, August 16, 1969.
Rain, Drugs Ruin Festival, Oakland Tribune, August 17, 1969.
Hippies Mired in Sea Of Mud, New York Times, August 17, 1969.
Bethel Pilgrims Smoke ‘Grass’ and Some Take LSD to ‘Groove’, New York Times, August, 18, 1969.
Merchants Praise Hippies’ Behavior, Times Herald Record (N.Y.) , August 18, 1969.
Woodstock: A Peaceful Logistical Impossibility, Washington Post, August 18, 1969.
Yasgur, With Few Regrets, Hails Aquarians, Times Herald Record (N.Y.) , august 19, 1969.
The Rock Farm Left to Cows by Contented FANS, N.Y. Daily News, August 19, 1969.
The Woodstock Thing: Was the Music Paramount? , Washington Evening Star, August 24, 1969.
The Great Rock Festival: Why Did It Happen? , Long Island Press, August 24, 1969.
Long Life Seen for Spirit of Woodstock Festival, Boston Globe, September 1, 1969.
Max Yasgur for President: That’s the Way It Is, Baby, Times Herald Record (N.Y.) , September 24, 1969.
On March 15, 1968, free-form underground FM station WBCN, which called itself "The American Revolution," began broadcasting from studios at 171 Newbury Street in Boston.
The first announcer on the air was Joe Rogers, who used the name "Mississippi Harold Wilson," as a tongue-in-cheek homage to both the Delta Blues and the then-British Prime Minister. The inaugural song played on the station was Cream's "I Feel Free."
(c) 2010 Lichtenstein Creative Media All rights reserved. (1)