Complete annotated table of contents for the four-volume
Voices from the Underground Series

Don’t settle for just one book. Treat yourself to all four volumes

… of the collection that the Los Angeles Times said, when the first edition came out in 1993, “comes closer than anything I've yet read to putting the sights, sounds and texture of the '60s on paper.” This second edition is even better: updated, revised, and expanded, with new stories, lots more photos, and forewords by the leading activist voices then and now.

Here’s a preview of what’s in store for you:

VOICES FROM THE UNDERGROUND, edited by Ken Wachsberger


Insider Histories of the Vietnam Era Underground Press, Part 1

  • Forewords by Abe Peck and William M. Kunstler (reprinted from the first edition) and a new foreword by Markos Moulitsas
  • Preface by Ken Wachsberger

Messaging the Blackman

John Woodford

In 1968, H. Rap Brown was in jail in Louisiana on trumped-up charges and the Black Panther Party was striding around northern California declaring it the right and duty of African Americans to defend themselves with arms against brutal police. Against that backdrop, journalist John Woodford, Harvard class of 1963, moved from Ebony magazine, the country’s biggest magazine aimed at African-American readers, to Muhammad Speaks, the newspaper of the Black Muslims, in order to play a more active role in events of the period. In this article, he provides an intimate account of his experience at both newspapers.

The San Francisco Oracle: A Brief History

Allen Cohen

Few people realize the tremendous influence that the Haight-Ashbury community and its voice, the San Francisco Oracle, had as both symbol and focal point for the social, artistic, psychological, and spiritual changes that were taking place during that chaotic period known as the sixties. In this history, Allen Cohen, founder and editor of the Oracle, chronicles the Haight-Ashbury community from its post-World War II working class beginnings to the end of its days as the mecca of the counterculture and draws lesson.

A Fowl in the Vortices of Consciousness: The Birth of the Great Speckled Bird

Sally Gabb

In 1968, a collective of young type humans in Atlanta, Georgia, spit out a response to the then-present insanity because they believed in possibility. It was naturally a collection of graduate students. Who else had been so groomed to take themselves so seriously? Budding historians and philosophers they were, mostly men, with women in the shadows, women on the brink of bursting forth to be heard. They were men and women joined by a certain lesson: the South. In this article, Sally Gabb recalls the history of Atlanta’s Great Speckled Bird.

Akwesasne Notes: How the Mohawk Nation Created a Newspaper and Shaped Contemporary Native America

Doug George-Kanentiio

To understand how Akwesasne Notes, the most influential aboriginal newspaper of the twentieth century, came to be, one must understand the history of the Mohawk community of Akwesasne where it was born in 1968. When a Mohawk person speaks of his community it becomes a narrative in which he carries the experiences of his ancestors across the generations. Akwesasne is a community rich in story, tragic, comedic, and dramatic. By intertwining the oral and written records, a compelling epic emerges, one which is about not only mere survival but also perseverance through decades of adversity.

The Joy of Liberation News Service

Harvey Wasserman, with a sidebar by Allen Young

Founded in youthful genius, LNS moved this country as few other rag-tag operations ever did. It was the AP and UPI of the underground, supplying the counterculture with a wide variety of articles and essays, proofs and spoofs that were read and loved by emerging millions. Then came the split, and co-founder Marshall Bloom’s suicide in 1969. Even today, the extent of FBI penetration and involvement is unknown, but Freedom of Information records show it was significant. In this article, LNS alumnus Harvey Wasserman tells his story. Allen Young’s profile of Marshall Bloom is reprinted from Fag Rag.

off our backs: The First Four Decades

Carol Anne Douglas and Fran Moira

off our backs was founded in late 1969 with $400 that had been collected to start an antiwar coffeehouse for GIs. The name was chosen, according to co-founder Marlene Wicks, because, “We wanted to be off our backs in terms of being fucked. We wanted to be off our backs in terms of being the backbone of American or every society or culture with no power. And we wanted the flack we would get from everyone about being strong to roll off our backs.” Forty years later, off our backs still operates on a shoestring while continuing to report on women’s struggles worldwide and their interconnectedness. Veterans Carol Anne Douglas, who is still a staff member, and Fran Moira review off our backs’ history with an emphasis on the first decade. Marilyn Webb’s story of the founding of off our backs is recounted in the following chapter.

oob and the Feminist Dream

Marilyn Webb

off our backs, the first national feminist newspaper to emerge on the East Coast during the Vietnam era, is a quintessential child of the sixties—born of enthusiasm, a pinch of planning, and a lot of idealistic vision. Although no one realized it at the time, the paper’s beginnings can be traced to the summer of 1968. Elsewhere, hippies were giving up the Haight, police were rioting in Chicago, and the Weather Underground was beginning to form. But in Washington, D.C., it was hot. Sticky hot. And muggy. In this complement to Carol Anne Douglas and Fran Moira’s history of off our backs, co-founder Marilyn Webb recalls oob’s first year.

A Tradition Continues: The Lansing Area’s Progressive Press, 1965-Present

Ken Wachsberger

The Lansing area of Michigan has a long tradition of underground and alternative newspapers, going back to 1965, when staff members of Michigan State University’s campus newspaper, State News, rebelled against its refusal to deal with issues of the day and started The Paper. Five years later, two successor papers combined staffs and resources and put out an experimental “joint issue.” The following year, the first free Joint Issue hit the streets and a new era began. In this article, alumnus Ken Wachsberger presents the history of the Lansing area’s underground press. In appendices, he tells why being in jail is like finals week and opens the Red Squad files on East Lansing’s underground press.

Freedom of the Press—Or Subversion and Sabotage?

Nancy Strohl

In the late 1960s and early 1970s young Americans, disproportionately poor and of color, were shipped off to Southeast Asia ostensibly to fight for freedom for the Vietnamese people. They soon became angry about racism, brutal conditions, and their own lack of freedom inside the U.S. military, as well as the insane policies they were supposed to defend with their lives. Meanwhile, antiwar activists at home often mistakenly attacked these same military personnel for their role in the Vietnam War. In the early seventies, however, some of us began to understand that they were themselves victimized by the war. One product of the natural coalition between antiwar GIs and the antiwar movement at home, writes Nancy Strohl, was Freedom of the Press, an alternative newspaper she produced and distributed with her husband at the naval Air Station in Yokosuka, Japan, port for the USS Midway when it was not serving as the base for bombing raids on north Vietnam.

The Guardian Goes to War

Jack A. Smith

Within that assortment of several hundred alternative publications that together helped to build domestic opposition to the Vietnam War, none matched the influence exercised by the Guardian. During the decade from 1965 to 1975, the Guardian metamorphosed from “progressive” to “radical” to “Marxist-Leninist.” Throughout that period, writes former editor Jack Smith, it retained its political and organizational independence, did not deviate from its stress upon “uniting all who could be united” against the war, attacked “right opportunism” and “left dogmatism” within the movement, and published timely and superior articles, commentary, and polemics for its national audience of 75,000 readers. Founded in 1948 to generally reflect the views of supporters of Henry Wallace’s short-lived Progressive Party, it remained one of the most important independent alternative publications in the United States until it ceased publishing in 1992. In a sidebar, Smith defines some of the key terms used in his article.

Muckraking Gadflies Buzz Reality

Chip Berlet

How does an Eagle Scout and church youth group leader end up hawking underground newspapers with nudes and natural food recipes? In the 1960s, the transition seemed, well, organic. In this article, long-time muckraker Chip Berlet recalls his introduction to the underground press and his resulting journey down the road to ruin as a member of College Press Service, The Denver Clarion, Flamingo Park Gazette, and other papers of the day. He concludes by explaining why he is still an optimist. In sidebars, he presents overview histories of a few other, short-lived underground press services and keeps his promise of utter anonymity to his sources so he can share experiences that they would never share openly because they have kids and respectable jobs now.

Space City!: From Opposition to Organizational Collapse

Victoria Smith Holden

Any organized group can become a victim of organizational failure, but social movement organizations seem especially vulnerable. Group activists often are so determined not to fall into conventional patterns of division and hierarchy that they may not notice when these patterns start creeping into the group. Or, their resistance to mainstream structures is so intense, they fail to take advantage of the valuable aspects of a little conventional organization. Or maybe social movement activists are so individualistic and creative they just have trouble functioning in any sort of organization. On Houston’s Space City!, financial struggles would never cease, from the first issue in June 1969 to its last, in September 1972. But the real nemesis was not money. In this article, Victoria Smith Holden analyzes the paper’s rise and fall.

A Select Annotated Bibliography of Sources on the Underground Press

Anne E. Zald and Cathy Seitz Whitaker, revised by K.R. Roberto

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My Odyssey through the Underground Press

Michael “Mica” Kindman
  • Forewords by Paul Krassner and Tommi Avicolli Mecca
  • Preface by Ken Wachsberger

In September 1963, Michael Kindman entered Michigan State University, eager about the possibilities that awaited him as one of nearly two hundred honors students from around the country who had been awarded National Merit Scholarships, underwritten by MSU and usable only there. Together, they represented by far the largest group of Merit Scholars in any school’s freshman class. At MSU? The nation’s first agricultural land grant college? Two years later, he founded The Paper, East Lansing’s first underground newspaper and one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, this country’s first nationwide network of underground papers. In early 1968, he joined the staff of Boston’s Avatar, unaware that the large, experimental commune that controlled the paper was a charismatic cult centered on a former-musician-turned-guru named Mel Lyman, whose psychic hold over his followers was then being strengthened and intensified by means of various confrontations and loyalty tests. Five years later, Kindman fled the commune’s rural outpost in Kansas and headed west, where he eventually settled in San Francisco, came out as a gay man, and changed his name to Mica. When Kindman wrote this important journey into self-discovery, he was working as a home-remodeling contractor, a key activist in the gay men’s pagan spiritual network Radical Faeries, a student, and a person with AIDS. He died peacefully on November 22, 1991, two months after submitting the final draft of his story.

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Insider Histories of the Vietnam Era Underground Press, Part 2

  • Foreword by Susan Brownmiller
  • Preface by Ken Wachsberger
  • Soldiers Against the Vietnam War: Aboveground and The Ally

    Harry W. Haines, with appendices by Harry W. Haines and James Lewes

    “'Tell us about the plan to burn down barracks buildings at Fort Carson.' The army intelligence officer wasn’t keeping notes during the interrogation, so I figured the gray room had a microphone somewhere, recording my answers. My cover was blown, and here I sat in my dress uniform, summoned to explain my role in the publication of Aboveground, an antiwar paper directed at soldiers stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado." Harry Haines looks back at the widespread GI antiwar movement, that largely hidden, secret part of the war’s history that embarrasses and threatens the regime that rules America today. Two appendices, by Haines and James Lewes, identify nearly 500 underground antiwar newspapers produced by or aimed at members of the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam War.

    Fast Times in the Motor City—The First Ten Years of the Fifth Estate: 1965-1975

    Bob Hippler

    Harvey Ovshinsky wasn’t happy when his mother moved to Los Angeles in 1965 and dragged along the popular senior from Detroit’s Mumford High School. Wandering around town in a funk, Ovshinsky happened upon the Sunset Strip. There he saw two sights that piqued his interest: a gathering place called the Fifth Estate Coffeehouse and Art Kunkin’s Los Angeles Free Press. Ovshinsky began hanging out at the coffeehouse and working on the Free Press. He was captivated by its antiwar politics, its concern for developing a radical Los Angeles community, and its coverage of the local music scene. Before the year was over, he returned to Detroit and founded Fifth Estate. Over forty years later, writes alumnus Bob Hippler, the snake oil of Reagan and the two Bushes has bankrupted the country, most workers do not have a union, and countries still suffer under the yoke of neo-colonialism, but the public has rejected Bush II’s bogus “war on terror” and illegal occupation of Iraq and Fifth Estate is the nation’s longest-lived underground paper to emerge from the Vietnam era.

    Looking for Utopia

    Patrick Halley

    In August of 1973, Guru Maharaj Ji, the 15-year old “perfect master,” arrived in Detroit to inaugurate his “Divine Light Mission”—a religious cult started in India—and to receive the key to the city. The local press hailed him as a messenger of peace and brotherhood. His disciples hailed him as the new “God.” Only Detroit’s Fifth Estate concluded that he was a hustler and a fraud. In this appendix to Bob Hippler’s history of the Fifth Estate, Patrick Halley tells, for the first time, how he infiltrated the “Divine Light Mission” and pied the perfect master from 15 feet, and about the steel plate he wore in his head as a reminder until he died.

    Fag Rag: The Most Loathsome Publication in the English Language

    Charley Shively

    On Friday evening, June 27, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Bar on Sheridan Square; instead of going quietly into the waiting vans, the motley crowd of queers and queens attacked the police. Stonewall was closed but sporadic street rioting continued in Greenwich Village for the next few days. The event quickly became the Bastille Day of an emergent, nationwide gay and lesbian liberation movement and the inspiration for a whole network of Gay Liberation Front papers, including Boston’s Fag Rag. All of them offered a brisk brew of sexual liberation, anarchism, hippie love, drugs, peace, Maoism, Marxism, cultural separatism, feminism, effeminism, tofu/brown rice, urban junkie, rural purism, nudism, leather, high camp drag, poetry, essays, pictures, and more. In this article, Fag Rag collective member Charley Shively gives context to the paper’s history into the present by tracing the history of the gay press back to Paris and Chicago in the twenties.

    The Kudzu: Birth and Death in Underground Mississippi

    David Doggett

    Yes, there was an underground press in Mississippi in the sixties. How could there not be writers in the land of Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Richard Wright, and Eudora Welty? The paper was called The Kudzu after the notorious vine that grows over old sheds, trees, and telephone poles throughout the South. How did it come about that a bunch of Mississippi white kids, descended from rednecks, slave owners, and Bible-thumpers, published for four years in the state’s capital a running diatribe of social, economic, and political revolution, a proclamation of sexual liberation, illegal drugs, and heretical mysticism? How does anyone, anywhere rise above the overpowering flow of one’s native culture, the suffocating, vise-like grip of the familial and communal, birth-to-death universe view? David Doggett tackles these questions and more in his fascinating history of The Kudzu.

    The Wong Truth Conspiracy: A History of Madison Alternative Journalism

    Tim Wong

    No Midwest city is as closely associated with the antiwar movement and counterculture of the Vietnam era as Madison, Wisconsin. At the University of Wisconsin thousands took part in antiwar marches. The Army Math Research Center was bombed and one researcher was killed. Off campus, the Mifflin-Bassett neighborhood declared “independence” from Madison and the United States. Energy flowed into creating a wide variety of alternative economic institutions. In this article, the history of the alternative press from March 1967 to the present is told by Tim Wong, whose own 8 ½ years of alternative journalism in Madison chronicled the transition from the sixties to the eighties.

    New Age: Worker Organizing from the Bottom Up

    Paul Krehbiel

    Paul Krehbiel’s first day on the job at Standard Mirror Company in South Buffalo in the spring of 1968 is still emblazoned in his mind. “When I walked into the factory I was assaulted by loud crashing and banging sounds. Black and green pipes and hoses crisscrossed everywhere, hissing like coiled cobras. The once-white walls looked like old teeth, coated in a yellowish-brown film after years of smoking. My nostrils sucked in the stink of sickening smells. A grey mist hung in the air, like fog in a Hollywood movie. But it wasn’t romantic or intriguing. The mist was deadly. It had ground-up glass in it. After four hours in the foggy room, I felt like someone had rubbed sandpaper over my throat.” This was not a torture chamber. It was one room in the auto parts factory where he worked, eight hours a day, five days a week. It was also his first step on the way to becoming a founder of the progressive rank-and-file workers’ newspaper, New Age.

    Ain’t No Party Like the One We Got: The Young Lords Party and Palante

    Pablo “Yorúba” Guzmán

    When Paul Guzman went to Mexico for a semester of study in early 1969, he was already an experienced political activist and aspiring “black militant.” After 3 ½ months in a country where everyone was a Latino and proud of that heritage, he returned to New York as Pablo “Yorúba” Guzmán, ready to learn about Puerto Rico’s militant history. In May 1969, he joined a group of college-age Latino males who would later merge with two similar groups to become the New York Young Lords Organization. His days of identifying with black or white North Americans, even radicals, were over, he writes in this history of the group’s newspaper, Palante; it was time to look within and without and begin organizing in the barrios, creating a Puerto Rican, even a pan-Latino, movement.

    Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom, Let a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend: The Story of Hundred Flowers

    Ed Felien

    The year 1970 was a turning point for America. Resistance to the war in Vietnam had matured into a permanent institution, a persistent and articulate counterculture. A new consciousness was being developed about capitalism, racism, and sexism. And in the last eight months of the year, Minneapolis’ Hundred Flowers blossomed, flourished, and withered. In this article, former staff member Ed Felien discusses his involvement in the paper and tells why he is neither repentant nor nostalgic for his involvement.

    The Furies: Goddesses of Vengeance

    Ginny Z. Berson

    Women’s Liberation in the nation’s capital in the early 1970s was thriving. With consciousness-raising groups enabling hundreds of women to understand that the personal is political, women established rape counseling, child care, and other services, began researching The Pill and testifying in Congress, and created their own forms of media. In the winter and spring of 1972, while Richard Nixon and his minions were preparing to bug Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Building, twelve self-proclaimed revolutionary lesbian feminists—who were known collectively as the Furies—began putting out the first issues of what would almost instantly become The “legendary” Furies. Former collective member Ginny Berson tells her story here for the first time.

    At This End of the Oregon Trail: The Eugene AUGUR: 1969-1974

    Peter Jensen

    An alien force had taken over our country; it talked peace and made vicious war; it owned both political parties. We were all that was left of the opposition. Above all, the media had caved in and was reporting inflated, daily body counts for generals in Saigon and Washington. The press was just another chain of corporations acting like a line of skimpily dressed cheerleaders for the boys in grunt green. In such a setting, writes Peter Jensen, the Eugene AUGUR began publication in 1969.

    Karl and Groucho’s Marxist Dance: The Columbus Free Press and Its Predecessors in the Columbus Underground

    Steve Abbott

    The writings of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King bump up against the poetry of Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman on a bookcase in Steve Abbott’s house in Old North Columbus. Political extremes coexist comfortably here, from Tom Wolfe and Abbie Hoffman to Marxist and anarchist treatises, from texts on drugs and sensual massage to analyses of racism and community organizing. What may appear to be a library tour, writes Abbott, is evidence of a personal odyssey that represents the myriad influences and contending philosophies that typified the alternative/underground press during its heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Columbus Free Press, in its content and its internal struggles, reflected both its community and its time, a time filled with days of agony and days of wonder as the ideals of mystical transformation and principled political struggle contended for the lives of those involved.

    “Raising the Consciousness of the People”: The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service, 1967-1980

    JoNina M. Abron

    On Tuesday August 22, 1989, Huey P. Newton was murdered. The man who had been an international symbol of black resistance to white oppression was found dead on a street in Oakland, California, the same city where he had co-founded the Black Panther Party 23 years before. Six days later, over 2,000 people, including ex-Panthers from all over the country, mourned Huey’s death and celebrated the enduring contributions that he and the party made to the political empowerment of black and other disenfranchised people in the United States. JoNina Abron was one of the speakers that day, along with Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown, Ericka Huggins, David Hilliard, and Emory Douglas. As she looked into the faces of her Panther comrades on the front pews, she writes, she thought about the good and hard times they had shared “serving the people body and soul,” and about her experiences as the last editor of the Black Panther newspaper.

    Both Sides Now Remembered: Or, the Once and Future Journal

    Elihu Edelson

    Jacksonville, Florida, was not the most fertile ground for an underground paper in late 1969. The city was ruled like a feudal fiefdom by a local machine that included the Florida Publishing Company, a monopoly that put out both the morning and evening papers. Three nearby military bases contributed to the ultraconservative atmosphere. New Leftists could be counted on the fingers of one hand; a handful of blacks put together the Florida Black Front, a local version of the Black Panthers; some good rock bands—like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd—were to come out of Jax, but they had to make their names in Atlanta. Because none of the local hippies had any journalistic experience, they went, naively, to an editor of FPC’s Florida Times-Union for advice. Elihu Edelson, a public school art teacher and part-time newspaper art critic, was about to get “sucked in” to the story of Both Sides Now.

    It Aint Me Babe: From Feminist Radicals to Radical Feminists

    Bonnie Eisenberg with help from Laura X, Trina Robbins, Starr Goode, and Alta and appendices by Laura X and Trina Robbins

    The 1960s was a tumultuous time in Berkeley, California, where the spark of student rebellion in the U.S. was born with the nonviolent Free Speech Movement in 1964. As the Vietnam War escalated and students faced the threat of being drafted, the U.C. Berkeley campus and surrounding residential communities became the site of major student protests. By the spring of 1969, Governor Reagan was determined to “reestablish order.” When an innocuous group of students and local counterculture activists turned a university-owned vacant block into a park, they were met with an astounding show of force. During the resulting protest rallies, one bystander was shot and killed by police, scores were shot and beaten, and thousands suffered from teargas dropped by low-flying helicopters. When the Independent Socialists suggested that Bonnie Eisenberg go to Boston for the summer to participate in a printing apprenticeship program at the New England Free Press, she was ready for a new adventure. That it would lead to her starting It Aint Me Babe, the first national newspaper of the emerging women’s liberation movement in the United States? At the time, she had no idea.

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    VOLUME 4

    Stop the Presses! I Want to Get Off!: A Brief History of the Prisoners' Digest International

    Joseph W. Grant
    • Foreword by Mumia Abu-Jamal
    • Preface by Ken Wachsberger
    • Afterword by Paul Wright

    Forty-five years ago, Joe Grant was a prisoner in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. Back then, the feds used Leavenworth for the truly incorrigible. Leavenworth was where they sent the prisoners when they closed Alcatraz. Stepping into that prison was reminiscent of the opening paragraph of Tale of Two Cities. It was the best and the worst place to do time. The best place to be if you wanted to serve your prison sentence and not be bothered by anyone—prisoner or guard. The worst place to be if you were hoping to make parole. The best place for quiet in the cell blocks. The worst place for informers. The best place for food. The worst place for library books. The best place if you could learn by observing and be silent until spoken to. The worst place if you had a big mouth. It was in this atmosphere, Grant writes, that the idea began to take shape for Prisoners' Digest International, a newspaper with two purposes: to provide prisoners with a voice that prison authorities could not silence and to establish lines of communication between prisoners and people in the free world.

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