"It's Free because It's Yours": The Diggers and the San Francisco Scene, 1964–1968

By Dominick Cavallo*

[Chapter Five from A Fiction of the Past: The Sixties in American History, by Dominick Cavallo. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.]

Professor Cavallo has graciously given permission to reproduce this ground-breaking, first-published scholarly history of the Diggers. It appears as a chapter in his larger history of the Sixties — however, he makes clear that he sees the Diggers as fundamental to understanding that period, especially the formation of the Sixties Counterculture. There will undoubtedly be a lively discussion about Prof. Cavallo's interpretation, with some disagreement, and much agreement — however, it is clear that this is an important piece that will take its place in the body of Digger history.
Notes on the transcription: I have taken the liberty of dividing this article into five parts to make the online viewing more manageable. The careful reader will notice that the original notes have been preserved and are hyperlinked to the specific citation in the notes file. I have inserted page numbers from the original (first) edition to indicate the start of a new page, thus: [p. 98]. Please contact me with any corrections or errors of transcription. —en

Table of Contents

Our first act of freedom, if we are free, ought in all inward propriety, to be to affirm that we are free.
William James, Essays In Pragmatism, 1907
Do your own thing. Be what you are. If you don't know what you are, find out. Fuck leaders.
The Diggers, 1966
The individual in America, has usually taken his start outside society.
R. W. B. Lewis, The American Adam, 1955
The key to the puzzle [of changing America] lies in theater.
Abbie Hoffman, 1968

The Diggers Take The Stage

The Setting

The Free Speech Movement

Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters

Bill Graham and the Fillmore

The Scene Is Noticed

The Digger Play

The Leatherstocking From Brooklyn

The Diggers and the Haight-Ashbury Exit the Stage

Conclusion: The Legacy of the Diggers and Counterculture


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