Hands Across America

Hands Across America was a public fundraising event on Sunday, May 25, 1986, when 5 to 6.5 million people held hands for 15 minutes in an attempt to form a continuous human chain across the contiguous United States.[1][2] The attempt to have a complete line of people across the country failed, although the number of participants would have been sufficient to succeed if they had been spread out over the full length of the planned course. The various gaps in the line between participants were filled using ribbons, ropes, or banners.

Hands Across America
Hands Across America Philadelphia.jpg
Hands Across America at Eakins Oval along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DatesMay 25, 1986
Location(s)Across the contiguous United States
Founded byKen Kragen

Many participants donated $10 each to reserve their place in line. The proceeds were donated to local charities to fight hunger and homelessness and help those in poverty.

The event raised about $15 million for charities after operating costs.


Gaithersburg, Maryland, participating in "Hands Across America" in May 1986.

Cities along the route included the following:

The event was conceived and organized by Ken Kragen. Event implementation was through USA for Africa under the direction of Marty Rogol, the founding Executive Director. A theme song, entitled "Hands Across America," was played simultaneously on hundreds of radio stations at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time (noon Pacific time). The song was written by Marc Blatte, John Carney, and Larry Gottlieb, and featured lead vocals by session singers Joe Cerisano and Sandy Farina, and the band Toto. The song peaked at #65 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986.

Hands Across America was a project of USA for Africa. USA for Africa produced "We Are the World" and the combined revenues raised by both events raised almost $100 million to fight famine in Africa and hunger and homelessness in the United States.

The date and time chosen for the event inadvertently conflicted with another charity fundraiser, Sport Aid, which was organized by USA for Africa on the same day. Since Hands Across America was much better publicized in the United States, only 4,000 runners participated in New York City for Sport Aid.

Continuity of the chainEdit

In order to allow the maximum number of people to participate, the path linked major cities and meandered back and forth within the cities.[citation needed] There were sections where the "line" was six to ten people deep. Enough people participated that if an average of all the participants had been taken and spread evenly along the route standing four feet (1.2 m) apart, an unbroken chain across the 48 contiguous states would have been able to be formed.[citation needed]The event aimed to raise money to fight poverty and hunger by literally uniting millions of Americans in a single cause: forming a human chain spanning the continental United States. Together, sponsors and corporations accounted for roughly 2000 miles of the 4125-mile chain.


Hands Across America raised $34 million. According to The New York Times, a net $15 million was distributed after deducting operating costs.[5]

Hands Across America was featured in the video for Michael Jackson's song "Cry".

Hands Across America was featured in the 1992 episode of The Simpsons, "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?" when the couch breaks and Homer reminisces about the memories sitting on it. One such memory is seeing coverage saying "Except for large gaps in the western states, Hands Across America was a complete success". Homer's wife and children, along with his neighbors the Flanderses are participating in the event, while Homer sits schumpily on the couch.

Hands Across America was referenced in the 2006 American comedy film Beerfest.

Character Jack Donaghy (portrayed by Alec Baldwin) mentions participating in Hands Across America in the episode "Hiatus" (S01E21) of the television show 30 Rock. The event was again referenced in season 5, episode 15, by Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) saying, when asked for ID at a bar, she participated in Hands Across America.

The event figures significantly in the plot of the 2019 American horror film Us, directed by Jordan Peele.

Hands Across America also featured in a 2016 episode of the sitcom The Goldbergs.

Also mentioned in season one, episode two of Selena: The Series.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Wolf, Buck. "Great Shakes: 'Hands Across America' 20 Years Later". ABC News.
  2. ^ NYT Now - The New York Times
  3. ^ "1986: Hands Across America winds through the Hoosier State". WRTV. May 20, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  4. ^ "PAPA DOO RUN RUN - California Beach Party Band - Beach Boys tribute band, Re-creating the hits of the Beach Boys, Classic Rock, Surf music, Surf band, California Music - it's all there".
  5. ^ Adeel Hassan (May 25, 2016). "Your Wednesday Briefing". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2016.

Further readingEdit