35 Images That Capture The Beatniks’ Heyday In New York City

Published October 24, 2016
Updated September 25, 2019

Photos of the beatnik movement in 1950s Greenwich Village that was home to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and the thriving Beat Generation.

In the late 1940s, a new counterculture coalesced around the writings of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs that embraced nonconformity, sexual liberation, and a bohemian lifestyle. Known as the Beat Generation, they laid the philosophical foundations for a free-spirited expressionism that would evolve into the broader hippie movement in the 1960s.

Beatniks found their home in Greenwich Village, a then-downtrodden neighborhood of New York City with low rents and an insular but welcoming community. As described by one resident:

Like, man, if you’re Beat, where else is there to go but Greenwich Village, Earth? Like, it’s Endsville, man, you dig?

In this gallery, we look at fascinating images of what life looked like in the Beatniks’ New York of the 1950s and 1960s:

Ginsberg Curso Kerouac
Kerouac Holds Court
Gregory Corso Poetry Reading
Beat Generation
35 Images That Capture The Beatniks’ Heyday In New York City
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If you're fascinated by this era, watch this short documentary from 1961 about Beat culture in New York:

And if you enjoyed this gallery of beatniks in New York City, check out our others on San Francisco at the height of the hippie revolution. Then, have a look at some terrifying photos of the New York subway in the 1980s.

Alexander is a Brooklyn-based cofounder of All That's Interesting with an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in History and Economics and an MSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Economics. He specializes in American history, the Cold War, and true crime.