Happy 60th Anniversary, City Lights

With great respect and admiration, the Beat Museum congratulates Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Booksellers and Publishers as they, North Beach—and indeed the entire literary world—celebrate 60 years in business!

Since 1953, City Lights has been a tireless champion of the free exchange of ideas, and a stalwart defender of free expression. If you’re reading this, no doubt you’re familiar with Ferlinghetti’s 1957 arrest, prosecution, and vindication for having published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, but while this victory cemented City Lights’ reputation, and thrust the Beat Generation into the public consciousness, it established an absolutely critical precedent, not only in the annals of American law, but more importantly, in the minds of every generation since then—that freedom isn’t just a buzzword, but is a very real, crucial, and inalienable human right, and the ability to read what one chooses is essential to the preservation of freedom. Over the ensuing decades, City Lights has been as a beacon on the bay for seekers of truth and consciousness, and in the sixty years since they opened as the nation’s first all-paperback bookstore, they’ve been a constant reminder that literature matters, and they show no sign of slowing down.

Come to City Lights this Sunday from 2pm – 5pm to join the throng that will undoubtedly spill out into the streets.

Video from 2003 City Lights 50th Anniversary:

At the 3:30 mark in the above video LF makes a reference to an Art Studio he had at the Audifred Building at 9 Mission Street in 1952. Interestingly enough, we just completed our newest exhibit this past weekend on San Francisco Artists and The Beat Generation and the centerpiece of that exhibit is the front door from that very studio Ferlinghetti mentions. It comes to us courtesy of Howard Hack, the artist who rented the studio from Ferlinghetti when LF gave up the space. The exhibit features the stories and the works of many SF artists and examines the relationships between the poets and writers and artists and musicians in North Beach and beyond and the various SF art galleries including The Six Gallery.

San Francisco’s beloved City Lights Bookstore turns 60 KALW – Local Public Radio (audio, 7mins)