In 1956, Lawrence Ferlinghetti decided to publish Allen Ginsberg’s "Howl" in 1956. The seminal poem broke social taboos by talking about drugs and race.
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical, naked dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,” the poem reads.
In an era characterized by conformity, “Howl” was a call to self-expression. But history notes that “Howl” became more. In 1957, Ferlinghetti was put on trial for publishing obscene materials. That trial became the center of the free speech movement, and it brought the Beat generation, Ferlinghetti’s bookstore, City Lights, and this wild poem to the world stage.
It’s been 60 years since poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti decided to open City Lights Bookstore in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach. It was the first all-paperback bookstore in the country to also serve as a publishing house, a business move that changed the game of book selling forever. It didn’t take long for City Lights to become the center of the beat literary scene – by the 1960s it was practically home to writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.