Born on 30 November 1936, Abbott Hoffman became one of the most well known U.S. political activists of the middle 20th century. Gaining national attention after the confrontations that took place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Hoffman remained politically active until his death at the age of 52. However, the political career of Abbie Hoffman was already well underway before the days of the Chicago Seven.
During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Abbie Hoffman was involved in earning an education. At Brandeis University, Hoffman earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1959. This was followed with a Master’s degree in psychology earned from the University of California at Berkeley. It was during his years that Hoffman began to become politically active, and took his first steps toward becoming a well-known anti-war organizer.
While Abbie Hoffman is well known as the organizer for the Youth International Party, this was not his first effort at mobilizing youth into a viable political voice. Hoffman helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which helped to raise money for the Civil Rights movement that was gaining ground in the southern United States. As his concepts of equality and peaceful resolution continued to expand, Abbie Hoffman began to be involved in the anti-war movement as well.
For Hoffman, gaining control of the political machine was the way effect change. This mindset was behind his motivation for the organized protests that caused the disruption of the Democratic National Convention in 1968. During the trial that ensued, Hoffman often referred to himself as a Jewish activist and an anarchist. While his methods were often theatrical and sometimes bordered on the esoteric, few will deny that Abbie Hoffman motivated a large number of young people to engage in the political process.
One example of the extreme methods employed by Abbie Hoffman to generate interest is found in his anti war protests. At one point, Hoffman organized a protest with an attendance of over fifty thousand young people. Among other things, the agenda for this protest was to combine the psychic powers of the attendees and direct the energy flow at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The idea was to cause the building to rise off the ground and somehow lead to the end of the Vietnam War.
In 1973, Abbie Hoffman was charged with the possession of drugs with the intent to sell. Denying the charges, Hoffman went underground, although he continued to exert influence on the protest movement through his writings. After seven years, Abbie Hoffman chose to surface and face charges. After a trial, he received a one-year sentence.
Throughout most of the 1980’s, Abbie Hoffman continued to write, often targeting government procedures and programs as well as big business. He continued to collaborate with others on projected book projects, as well as creating a large body of notes related to personal projects as well. As late as 1986, Hoffman was actively involved in public protests, with an arrest occurring during a protest at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
The death of Abbie Hoffman on 12 April 1989 due to an overdose of phenobarbitol remains a point of controversy with many of his proponents. While the death was officially ruled to be a suicide, people close to Hoffman claim that the overdose was accidental. Regardless of the exact reason for his death, there is no doubt that Abbie Hoffman remains the most recognizable of all Yippies and continues to exert a degree of influence on political activism to this day.