Our SF: The Beats help build city’s progressive future

Photo: Joe Rosenthal / The Chronicle

Photo: Joe Rosenthal / The Chronicle

“One of the more cinematic moments in San Francisco history arrived on Oct. 3, 1957, when a judge handed down the verdict for perhaps the most important misdemeanor case in the city’s history.

“Judge Clayton W. Horn scolded the police in English and French before declaring that Allen Ginsberg’s poetry tour de force “Howl” was not an obscenity.

“‘The judge’s decision was hailed with applause and cheers from a packed audience that offered the most fantastic collection of beards, turtlenecked shirts and Italian hairdos ever to grace the grimy precincts of the Hall of Justice,” wrote David Perlman, who remains a Chronicle reporter in 2015.

“It was arguably the turning point for the Beat Generation, which would spawn a memorable poetry scene and cultural era for the city.

“But the movement began earlier than the “Howl” verdict, and had a much bigger impact on future San Francisco than was predicted at the time. The Beatniks, as named by Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, had a positive influence on visual arts, performing arts and music. They challenged the values of a conservative city. And they built a foundation for a progressive future.” More…

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