The Sexual Revolution is at the New York Public Library

Lifestyle, National News
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By Kevin Price, Managing Editor, USADC.

Recently Kevin Price spoke at a conference in New York City and spent a significant amount of time visiting unique and important parts of the Big Apple.  For a list of the articles and to keep track of them as they are released, click here

Back in the 1990s I did a consulting gig for Continental Airlines.  It was no big deal, it was just an opportunity to do a survey of the quality of the services of the airline.  The pay was good and I got a few free trips.  One of them was to New York City.  It was my first trip there.  I arrived in the middle of the night and I would have to leave the next afternoon.  This gave me about two hours to play in the big city after factoring getting there and back to the airport.  This was not going to stop me.

I knew I could only catch a few spots and had to prioritize my list according.  As a bibliophile, the top of my list was the famous New York Public Library.  I loved it and found myself lost in the place, and don’t recall seeing anything else.  Ever since I have made visiting the library a part of my agenda whenever I visit the city.


On my most recent trip I visited the main branch again and on this trip they had a fascinating exhibit called You Say You Want a Revolution: Remembering the 60s.  It opened in the Gottesman Exhibition Hall at the Library’s famed 42nd Street Library on January 19, 2018 and will remain open to the public through September 1.

The exhibit was a little uncomfortable to view, but it was also very interesting. All the conflicting themes of the 1960s can be rediscovered through over 125 pieces.  It includes some pretty bizarre items, including Timothy Leary’s first-hand account of an LSD trip; Tom Wolfe’s notes about Haight-Ashbury for his book The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test; Gloria Steinem’s letter to the New York Times’ Abe Rosenthal; and John Updike’s powerful opinion on the Vietnam War:


In a statement from the library: “Many young people of the 1960s, rejecting the notion of the conventional American Dream, created a movement now commonly called the Counterculture, inspired by their belief in the dawning of a New Age. In this Age of Aquarius, the worship of material success would be replaced by a peaceful, just society for all. The New York Public Library’s newest exhibition examines these young people’s joyful and painful search for meaning, their battle against established cultural and political norms, their excesses and their achievements. Their legacy reminds us that each generation must face its responsibility to end injustice,” said  Isaac Gewirtz of NYPL’s Berg Collection of English and American Literature, who is the curator of the exhibit.  What wasn’t mentioned was the seriously negative social consequences of this revolutionary era — leading to a serious undermining of legitimate authority, rampant sexually transmitted diseases, and other less celebrated aspects of the “revolution.”

The Price of Business and its media partners have done a series of articles celebrating New York.  For background on the series and to get links to the articles click here. 

The big themes of the exhibit are sexuality, activism, politics, civil rights, communal life and the Vietnam War.  Some of the more memorable items in the exhibit include:

  • A fascinating notebook containing drawings and texts from Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and Peter Orlovsky
  • A typescript of On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Bob Dylan’s typescript of “Changing of the Guard” with his own handwritten notes (one of my favorites)
  • Manuscript pages from Abbie Hoffman’s “Soon to be a Motion Picture”
  • A symbolic funeral notice for the Hippie of Haight-Ashbury
  • Flyer for Pow-wow: a gathering of the tribes for a human be-in
  • Buttons from the United States Social Political Button collection (very fun)

Also, according to a statement, “the Library also presented Artifacts of Change, a series of displays featuring memorabilia from maverick artists of the 1960s – Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, Elaine Summers, and others – at the Library for the Performing Arts. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has also extended the run of its exhibitions Black Power! and Power in Print, which examines the art of the Black Power poster movement.”  The library also did a fascinating series of presentations on the exhibits.

One of my favorite parts was the aforementioned Black Power movement.  It had a picture of the late Eldridge Cleaver (immediately above), who was the Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, was in exile in Cuba and France during the 1970s, and became a conservative Republican in the 1980s.  I spent a couple of hours with the former radical when he was running for Congress and his campaign was looking for financial support.  It was a fascinating story of his conversion — both religious and political.

This is a fascinating exhibit and worth the time, when visiting New York.

Kevin Price is an award winning journalist and host of the Price of Business, which is one of the longest running business shows in the country.

All but the feature image are by the article author. 

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