Jerry Rubin

Jerry Rubin
Jerry Rubin

Rubin speaking at the University at Buffalo in March 1970
Born July 14, 1938(1938-07-14)
Cincinnati, Ohio,
United States
Died November 28, 1994(1994-11-28) (aged 56)
Los Angeles, California,
United States
Occupation high-profile American social activist
Author, DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution
entrepreneur, businessman

Jerry Rubin (July 14, 1938 – November 28, 1994) was an American social activist during the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1980s, he became a successful businessman.


Early life

Rubin was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of a bread delivery man and union representative, and grew up in the then-upscale Avondale neighborhood[citation needed].

Rubin's parents died within 10 months of each other, leaving Rubin the only person to take care of his younger brother, Gil, who was 13 at the time. Jerry wanted to teach Gil about the world and decided to take him to India. When relatives threatened to fight to obtain custody of Gil, Jerry decided to take his brother to Tel Aviv instead. There Rubin studied sociology while his brother, who had learned Hebrew, decided to stay in Israel and moved to a kibbutz. Before returning to social and political activism, Rubin made a visit to Cuba despite the law forbidding Americans to travel there[citation needed].

Rubin attended Cincinnati's Walnut Hills High School, co-editing the school newspaper, The Chatterbox and graduating in 1956. While in high school Rubin began to write for The Cincinnati Post, compiling sports scores from high school games. He later went on to graduate from the University of Cincinnati, receiving a degree in sociology. Rubin attended the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964 but dropped out to focus on social activism[citation needed].

Social activism

Rubin began to demonstrate on behalf of various left-wing causes after dropping out of Berkeley. Rubin also ran for mayor of Berkeley, receiving over twenty per cent of the vote. Having been unsuccessful, Rubin turned all his attentions to political protest. His first protest was in Berkeley, protesting against the refusal of a local grocer to hire African Americans. Soon Rubin was leading protests of his own. Rubin organized the Vietnam Day Committee, led some of the first protests against the war in Vietnam, and was one of the founding members of the Youth International Party or Yippies, along with social and political activist Abbie Hoffman[citation needed].

In October 1967, David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam asked Rubin to help mobilize and direct a March on the Pentagon.[1] The protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial as Dellinger and Dr. Benjamin Spock gave speeches to the mass of people.[2] From there, the group marched towards the Pentagon. As the protesters neared the Pentagon, they were met by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division.[2] who formed a human barricade blocking the Pentagon steps.[1] Not to be dissuaded, Abbie Hoffman, co-founder of the Yippies, vowed to levitate the Pentagon[2] while Allen Ginsberg led Tibetan chants to assist.[2] Eventually, things turned ugly. By the time the group's 48-hour permit expired, approximately 680 protesters had been jailed and 50 hospitalized.[2]

As one member of the march recalled:

Then someone in authority decided that the Pentagon steps had to cleared. Rifle butts came down on peoples’ heads with dull ugly wet sounding thumps. Blood splashed on to the steps. There were shouts of “Link arms! Link arms!”, mixed with screams of pain and curses. People were dragged off and arrested. The brutality was appalling and the people standing on the steps began throwing debris at the soldiers. I saw a garbage can sail over my head. I feared people might be trampled in panic as they tried to escape from the clubs and rifle butts.[3]

Rubin later played an instrumental role in the anti-war demonstrations that accompanied the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago by helping to organize the Yippie "Festival of Life" in Lincoln Park and speaking at an anti-war rally at the Grant Park bandshell on August 28, 1968. Violence between Chicago police and demonstrators (which an official government report called a "police riot") eventually led to the indictment of Rubin and seven others (Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis, John Froines, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, Tom Hayden, and Bobby Seale) on several charges of conspiracy and incitement to riot.[4]

The defendants were commonly referred to as the "Chicago Eight". Seale's trial, however, was severed from the others after he demanded the right to serve as his own lawyer and was sentenced to four years in prison for contempt of court, making the Chicago Eight the Chicago Seven. Rubin, along with the six other defendants, was found not guilty on the charge of conspiracy but guilty (with four other defendants) on the charge of incitement. He was also sentenced by the judge to more than three years in prison for contempt of court. All the convictions for incitement were later thrown out by an appeals court, who cited judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. Most of the contempt of court citations were also overturned on appeal.[5]

Post activism

After the Vietnam War ended, Rubin became an entrepreneur and businessman. He was an early investor in Apple Computer.[6] During much of the 1970s and 1980s, he lived in Echo Park, California and ran a legal and civil rights office on the southwest corner of Echo Park Avenue and Sunset Blvd.

In the 1980s, he embarked on a debating tour with Abbie Hoffman titled "Yippie versus Yuppie." Rubin's argument in the debates was that activism was hard work and that the abuse of drugs, sex, and private property had made the counter-culture "a scary society in itself." He maintained that "wealth creation is the real American revolution. What we need is an infusion of capital into the depressed areas of our country." A later political cartoon portrayed Rubin as half-guerrilla and half-businessman.[7] Rubin's differences with Hoffman were on principle rather than personal. When Hoffman died in 1989, Rubin attended his funeral.[8]

Other appearances

Jerry Rubin appeared posthumously in the 2002 British documentary by Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self. He appears in episode part 3 of 4. This segment of the video discusses the Erhard Seminars Training, of which Rubin was a graduate.

Rubin also appeared on Saturday Night Live's second episode of its first season (in one of the few comedic moments in a show almost entirely devoted to a Paul Simon musical performance). He was announced as "Jerry Rubin, Leader of the Yippie Movement." His sketch is a fake commercial for wallpaper featuring famous protest slogans from the 1960s and 1970s (i.e., "Make Love, Not War", "Off The Pig!", "Give Peace A Chance", "Hell, No, We Won't Go!", etc.). He ends the sketch by parodying a famous radical slogan as "Up against the wall-paper, motherfuckers!" (with the last word bleeped out). The fake commercial was later played in a few other first season episodes, including the episode featuring Ron Nessen, then President Gerald Ford's press secretary.

Portrayal In Popular Culture

In a motion picture about Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Movie, Rubin was portrayed by Kevin Corrigan. In the 2007 documentary Chicago 10: The Convention Was Drama. The Trial Was Comedy Rubin is featured both with film footage and with animation using Mark Ruffalo as his voice. In the television show Dark Skies, Rubin is shown organizing an anti-war protest group in Berkley that has been infiltrated by aliens - he is portrayed by Timothy Omundson.


Jerry Rubin's anti-establishment beliefs were put down in writing in his book, DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution (1970), with an introduction by Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver and unconventional design by Quentin Fiore. In 1971, his journal, written while incarcerated in the Cook County Jail, was published under the title We are Everywhere. The book includes an inside view of the trial of the Chicago Seven, but otherwise focuses on the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, LSD, women's liberation and his view of a coming revolution.

In 1976, Rubin wrote another book entitled Growing (Up) at Thirty-Seven, which contained a chapter narrating his experience at an Erhard Seminars Training (EST) session that was later included in the reader "American Spiritualities."


Near the end of his life, Rubin was heavily involved in multi-level marketing of health foods and nutritional supplements.[9]


On November 14, 1994, Rubin jaywalked on Wilshire Boulevard, in front of his penthouse apartment [10] in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, California. It was a weekday evening and traffic was heavy, with three lanes in each direction. A car swerved to miss Rubin but a second car, immediately behind the first, was unable to avoid him. He was taken to the UCLA Medical Center, where he died 14 days later. He is interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.

In popular culture

  • DO IT! was also the inspiration for a track of the same name on the 1972 Aphrodite's Child album '666[11]
  • DO IT! was the apparent inspiration for the titles of two other books: Eat It: A Cookbook by Dana Crumb and Grow It! The Beginner's Complete In-Harmony With Nature Small Farm Guide by Richard W. Langer.[citation needed]
  • Danny Masterson will portray Jerry Rubin in the upcoming movie The Chicago 8, written and directed by Pinchas Perry. It was filmed in September and October 2009 but not yet released.[12] The film is based closely on the trial transcripts and most of the action takes place in the courtroom.[13]


External links

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