The Beat Generation was a literary movement started by a group of authors whose work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war era. The bulk of their work was published and popularized throughout the 1950s. The central elements of Beat culture are the rejection of standard narrative values, making a spiritual quest, the exploration of American and Eastern religions, the rejection of materialism, explicit portrayals of the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs, and sexual liberation and exploration.
The core group of Beat Generation authors – Herbert Huncke, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Lucien Carr, and Kerouac – met in 1944 in and around the Columbia University campus in New York City. Later, in the mid-1950s, the central figures (with the exception of Burroughs and Carr) ended up together in San Francisco where they met and became friends of figures associated with the San Francisco Renaissance.
In the 1960s, elements of the expanding Beat movement were incorporated into the hippie and larger counterculture movements. Neal Cassady, as the driver for Ken Kesey's bus Further, was the primary bridge between these two generations. Ginsberg's work also became an integral element of early 1960s hippie culture.
Kerouac introduced the phrase "Beat Generation" in 1948 to characterize a perceived underground, anti-conformist youth movement in New York. The name arose in a conversation with writer John Clellon Holmes. Kerouac allows that it was Huncke, a street hustler, who originally used the phrase "beat", in an earlier discussion with him. The adjective "beat" could colloquially mean "tired" or "beaten down" within the African-American community of the period and had developed out of the image "beat to his socks", but Kerouac appropriated the image and altered the meaning to include the connotations "upbeat", "beatific", and the musical association of being "on the beat", and "the Beat to keep" from the Beat Generation poem.