Digitizing Underground, Alternative, and Literary Publications from a Legendary Era

The murders forty-four years ago this month of four white students at Kent State University by Ohio National Guardsmen and two black students at Jackson State University by Mississippi state police led directly to my dropping out of college at Michigan State University and joining the Vietnam-era antiwar Movement. Before my first rent payment was due, I had attended my first meeting of East Lansing’s underground newspaper, Generation, beginning a lifetime connection to the underground press, as an activist and writer, a political organizer, and later an historian and editor.

The project that I’ve described in three of my recent posts to digitize underground, alternative, and literary publications from the fifties through the eighties is a continuation of my passion for that experience and now for my effort to preserve the most important political and artistic creations of the era and make them accessible to current and future generations of activists, artists, and scholars.

In my last post about the digital collection, I described the “cost recovery = open access” economic model that is enabling Reveal Digital, the company where I am currently working, to offer the collection to libraries at a cost of approximately 20% of what other digitizing companies would charge. In an earlier post, I listed the feminist and lesbian papers that are already on board to be digitized.

In this post, I will name some of the other newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties that are on board.

I’ll begin with the gay papers:

Ain’t It Da Truth, Chicago Gay Pride 1971, Come Out!, The Effeminist, Fag Rag, Faggots on Faggotry, Gay Flames, Gay Liberator, Gay Post, Lavender U, The Paper (Chicago, IL), Philadelphia Gay News, and Philadelphia Weekly Gayzette

And the minority papers:

Akwesasne Notes, Burning Spear, Chahta Anumpa/The Choctaw Times, Con Safos, El Machete, Freedom, Freedomways, Gidra, The Indian Progress, The Liberator, Maine Indian Newsletter, Makah Times, Muhammad Speaks, Palante, The Sentinel, Talking Leaf, and Voz Fronteriza

I’m in discussion with folks from other gay and minority papers, or waiting for them to send in their permission forms, but we are still weak in these areas because we got started on them later than the women’s papers. Lots more are on my list of papers to get but I don’t always know who to ask.

Do you know of gay and minority papers not included here that should be? More important, do you know veterans of those papers—or were you one yourself—who I can contact for permission?

Let’s talk. As you’ll see below, I have access to original issues of titles from serials collections of a growing list of libraries all over the country. Your paper’s omission from the collection is only because you haven’t yet given me the okay.

Meanwhile, other papers, representing the campus, high school, community, rank-and-file worker, prisoners’ rights, socialist, psychedelic, Southern consciousness, new age, and other underground and alternative voices of the era include the following:

The Activist (Oberlin, OH), Alternative Media Magazine, Ann Arbor Argus, AUGUR (Eugene), Austin Rag, Barb on Strike, Berkeley Barb, Berkeley Tribe, Big Us/Burning River News, Black & Red, Bogue Street Bridge, Both Sides Now, Buddhist 3rd Class Junkmail Oracle, Burning River Oracle, Carbuncle Review, CAW!, Chicago Kaleidoscope, Chicago Seed, Columbus Free Press, Connections, Counter-Spy, CovertAction/CovertAction Information Bulletin/CovertAction Quarterly, Cuyahoga Current, Dallas News, Dallas Notes From the Underground, Fifth Estate, Flamingo Park Gazette, The Flea, Free For All, Generation, The Ghost, Goob Yeak Gergibal, Good Morning Teaspoon, Great Speckled Bird, Great Swamp Erie da da Boom, The Guardian, Guerrilla: The Free Newspaper of the Streets, Helix, High and Mighty, Hundred Flowers, Iconoclast, The Indicator, Joint Issue, Kansas Free Press, King Street Trolley, Kudzu, Lansing Beat, Lansing Star, Leviathan, Life in the Great Society with Lyndon, Los Angeles Free Press, Madison Kaleidoscope, Midnight Special, Milwaukee Kaleidoscope, The Movement (San Francisco), National Guardian, Natty Dread, Nebraska Biweekly Dispatch, New Age, New Indicator, New Leaf, New Mole, New York Ace, New York Herald Tribune, No Limits, NOLA Express, North Star, Northwest Passage, Notes From The Underground, Notes From the Underground—The S.M.U. Off Campus Free Press, Ocean Beach People’s Rag, October 4th Organization, Old Mole, Orpheus,, Osawatomie, Other Scenes, Overthrow, Pack Rat, The Paper (East Lansing, MI), Paper Tiger, Peace & Freedom News, Penal Digest International/Prisoners’ Digest International, The People Yes, People’s Voice, Peoples Dreadnaught, Plain Talker, Pterodactyl, Public Eye, Purple Berries, Quicksilver Times, The Realist, Red Apple News, Red Tide, Richmond Mercury, The Rights of Man, Rising Up Angry, The Root, San Diego Door, San Diego Free Press, San Diego Street Journal, Sour Grapes, Space City!, The Spectator, The Spirit of Logos, Student Action Committee Newsletter (Philadelphia), Sun (Warren-Forest, Detroit, and Ann Arbor), Swamp Erie Pipe Dream, Swill & Squeal, These Crazy Times, The Unicorn, University Review, The View From Here, The Walrus, What’s Happening, White Lightning, Willamette Valley Observer, and Yipster Times

I have been honored to work with James Lewes, the world expert on the military underground press, who is on a mission to digitize every military underground paper from the era that was ever produced. Our collection includes approximately 200 of the papers that he has scanned, which is only a fraction of his amazing work. Eventually I anticipate that our larger collection will include all of his papers.

And we have four publications produced by the FBI in their campaign to destroy the underground press:

Armageddon News, A Handbook for Revolting Kids, Longhorn Tale, Rational Observer, and SDS New Laugh Notes

During that same period from the fifties through the eighties that brought forth the underground and alternative press, another burst of publishing was taking place in another genre. The underground and alternative press was largely political writing but included fiction and poetry. Other creative souls from the period were producing literary publications, largely poetry and fiction but some highly political, that were known as “little” magazines. While I can claim expertise in the underground and alternative press, I am less of an expert with the little magazines. However, our partners in this project are librarians at University of Buffalo and University of Wisconsin, whose collections include major holdings of these publications. They have provided me with suggested lists of magazines to include and I have gone forth to obtain permissions.

Among the literary journals on board so far are

0 to 9, Aion (New York), Amazon Quarterly, Amphora, Aphra, The Archer, Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion, Audience, Audit, Bezoar, Birth, Black Maria, blewointment, Bombay Gin, Bread & Roses, Bread&, Broadway Boogie, Bulletin from Nothing, Burning Deck, Caliban, Chelsea, The Chelsea Review, Chrysalis, Cloud Marauder, Clown War, The Coldspring Journal,Conditions, Copkiller, El Corno emplumado, Credences, Damascus Road, Extensions, Free Poems/Among Friends, Ganglia, Genesis West, grOnk, Hanging Loose, Harris Review, Head, Heresies: A Feminist Journal on Arts and Politics, IKON, Imago, Io, Ironwood, IT, The Little Mag, Little Square Review, Living Hand, M, Maelstrom, Mag City, Magazine, Magazine of Further Studies, Margins, Matter, Meatball, Milk Quarterly, Modern Occasions, Mother: A Journal of New Literature, New Wilderness Letter, Niagara Frontier Review, NOW/NOW NOW/NOW NOW NOW, The Outsider, Panjandrum Press, Poems from the Floating World, River Styx, Roof, Roy Rogers, Score, Scree, Search for Tomorrow, Sinister Wisdom, Sipapu, some/thing, Soup, Stooge, Sum: A Newsletter of Current Workings, Sumac, Talisman, Telephone, Things, Tish, Tree, Trobar, United Artists, Unmuzzled Ox, Unnatural Acts, Yanagi, Yeah, and Yowl

Our primary sources so far for the women’s publications have been the libraries at Duke and Northwestern. This means that, once I get permissions from rights holders, these libraries provide the original hardcopy issues for us to scan. We then return the issues undamaged. We pay all shipping and handling charges for the library. Buffalo and Wisconsin have provided us with original little magazines from their collections according to the same arrangement. Other libraries that are working with us so far as sourcing libraries include Michigan State University, Georgia State University, University of Texas-Austin, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Washington, New York University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock (Sequoyah National Research Center), and William Way LGBT Center. We’re in discussion with others.

Our goal is to digitize a million pages in four years. Our motivations are two-fold: to preserve the most important writings of our generation, which are now hidden in dark shelves of special collections libraries and beginning to yellow and crumble with age; and to make them available to current and future generations of activists, artists, and scholars. You can check out our beta site here. It includes some 80,000 pages primarily from our feminist/lesbian and military underground press collections. As you can see, it is just a small sample of our projected collection, and the files are keyword-searchable, a vast improvement over the old non-searchable Bell & Howell UPS (Underground Press Syndicate) microfilm collection.

Thanks to everyone who has shown so much support for this project. Much remains to be done. I need your continuing support. In particular, if you were part of an underground, alternative, or literary publication from the period that is not included on any of my lists, please get in touch with me so I can bring you aboard. And if you are a librarian or scholar, please make your library an active supporter by enrolling in the collection.

In the meantime, if you missed my three earlier posts on the digital project, you can read them here, here, and here.

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6 Responses

  1. by any chance do you have stuff from the following rags:
    the staff (la) tuesday’s child (la), open city (la) and the san francisco good times

  2. It looks like you’re visiting your old stomping grounds. Unfortunately most of the Los Angeles papers you mention aren’t on board yet, mostly because I haven’t yet obtained permission from rights holders:

    • I’m not familiar with The Staff. What can you tell me about it? Who worked on it?
    • Tuesday’s Child is on my list of papers to bring on board but I haven’t gotten permission yet. Who can you connect me with who worked on it?
    • Open City founder John Bryant died in 2007. I haven’t yet connected with an heir or anyone else from the paper. Do you know anyone?

    One LA paper that is on board is Los Angeles Free Press. Founder Art Kunkin is a strong supporter of the digital project. The papers haven’t been scanned yet but we will be receiving the run from University of Connecticut’s collection of originals.

    San Francisco Good Times is on board to be scanned but it hasn’t been scanned yet. However, an alternate title of the same paper, San Francisco Express-Times, is available for viewing.

    To view the collection–so far about 300,000 pages out of our goal of one million–go to voices.revealdigital.com. At this time you can only access it through one of our supporting libraries. See “Libraries” tab for the list. When the collection goes into open access, you will be able to use it by simply Google searching.

  3. this seems a very, very useful and creative project, Howard Romaine

  4. Thanks for your kind words, Howard. I’ve recently posted updates of the project at https://goo.gl/JT6tK7 (about the feminist and lesbian papers), https://goo.gl/SAiB7d (an overview of the underground press), and, just today, https://goo.gl/fhoRjr (about the Chicano papers). Meanwhile, it’s nice to hear from you. I don’t know if you know about my Voices from the Underground Series (http://voicesfromtheunderground.com/voices.htm) but you are mentioned a few times in volume 1 by Sally Gabb in her history of Great Speckled Bird.

    • Well, I heard of your work from our annual JUNE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD GATHERING IN ATLANTA, and I hope you’ll put it on your ToDo list for a visit about your project. Steve Wise, who was in the PHD program in history at UVa when I was in the PhD program in Philosophy, and who probably also contributed to THE VIRGINIA WEEKLY, an alternative, procivil rights and antiwar paper a group of us started there, and which continued for some years, and was a model for THE BIRD, in Atlanta. Steve has evolved into the official historian of the Great Speckled Bird, which we both worked on, and contributed to, and still lives in Atlanta, and was a key producer of a wonderful exhibit of The Great Speckled Bird, which has several entries on the net, but my favorite short one is a clip from Atlanta Public TV on the event, with Bob Goodman, Steve, and Stephanie Coffin as spokes folks, and starred such grads of the paper, and SNCC or SSOC, as currently Sen. Nan Orrock of Atlanta, and Sparkie Rucker and his wife, a folk group, linking us to the name, which came from a concert at the folk club, with the Rev. Pearly Brown singing, or Anne Romaine, my wife, deceased ’95, also sang regularly…If you plan to come to Atlanta in June next, or invite Stephanie and Steve to bring the exhibit to Ann Arbor next spring,I’ll cook you a bowl of gumbo the next time, in winter, you’re in Nashville. cheers, Howard Romaine

  5. Thanks for the offer, Howard. I’m not a meat eater but if the gumbo is with fish I’m on board.

    I would love to make it to a June reunion. I’ve been speaking at a growing number of conferences because of the digital project, including the Berkeley Barb 50th year reunion, whose organizers invited me to speak there next month. Also, if Steve wanted editorial help writing the official Bird history, I would love to work with him. I would be honored to publish it through my own company, Azenphony Press. Meanwhile, the list of papers on board the digital collection has grown greatly since this entry appeared last year. One new paper is Virginia Weekly. Two others, both from Atlanta, are ALFA (Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance) Newsletter and its successor paper, Atalanta.

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