Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Diggers was a radical community-action and guerilla-theater group from 1966-68, based in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. Their politics was such that it has sometimes been categorized as"left-wing," but more accurately they were "community anarchists" who blended a desire for freedom with a consciousness of the community in which they lived.
The group was formed by former members of the San Francisco Mime Troupe . Members included Emmett Grogan (cofounder and leader), Peter Coyote (cofounder), Peter Berg (cofounder), Billy Murcott , La Mortadella , Slim Minnaux , Butcher Brooks , Kent Minault . Billy Murcott named the group after the original Diggers and wrote the first edition of the Digger Papers. These Diggers apocryphally claimed that the original Diggers were so named because they were being killed by the king's men, and were constantly being seen digging graves for their brethren. Which was wrong, because the Diggers (or True Levellers as they styled themselves) were a democratic utopian group of radicals during the English Civil War. They drew their inspiration from the Bible and advocated a return to the land. They were called Diggers by their opponents. None of them were killed by the King's men. The King's men did not control the army or the administration where the Diggers started their community.
The mid-'60s San Francisco Diggers opened stores, fed people, organized concerts as works of political art. Some of their events include the Death of Money Parade, Intersection Game, Invisible Circus, and Death of Hippie/Birth of Free.
The Diggers fed people in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park in Haight-Ashbury for free. They served a stew made from donated vegetables behind a giant yellow picture frame, called the Free Frame of Reference. People who came for the food were given a two-inch-by-two-inch frame to hang about their neck, called the portable Free Frame of Reference. The Diggers popularized whole-wheat bread with their Digger Bread, baked in coffee cans at the Free Bakery.
They opened numerous Free Stores, in which all items were free for the taking or giving in Haight-Ashbury. The stores were funded by money from local merchants afraid of or supporting the Diggers, who paid a one percent tithe to the Free City Bank. This accounted for the saying "99% Free". The first free store was called Trip Without a Ticket. They also opened a Free Medical Clinic.
They threw free parties with the Grateful Dead and other rock bands, planned on dates such as the solstice or equinox, with such sights as trucks of naked belly dancers driving through the neighborhood in the afternoon with black conga players, wine, and marijuana.
In their publications, the Diggers coined such phrases as "Do your own thing" and "Today is the first day of the rest of your life".
The Diggers fell apart for a variety of reasons, including heavy drug use, as many members were addicted to heroin.
- Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle by Peter Coyote 1998 ISBN 158243011X
- Ringolevio by Emmett Grogan 1972
- Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps by Emmett Grogan, Peter Coyote (Illustrator) 1990
- "The Theater is in the Street" by Bradford D. Martin 2004 ISBN 1558494588
- "Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age 1945-2000" by Martin Torgoff 2004 ISBN 0743230108
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