A Big Digital Archive of Independent & Alternative Publications: Browse/Download Radical Periodicals Printed from 1951 to 2016

The con­sol­i­da­tion of big media in print, TV, and inter­net has had some seri­ous­ly dele­te­ri­ous effects on pol­i­tics and cul­ture, not least of which has been the major depen­dence on social media as a means of mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion. While these plat­forms give space to voic­es we may not oth­er­wise hear, they also flat­ten and mon­e­tize com­mu­ni­ca­tion, spread abuse and dis­in­for­ma­tion, force the use of one-size-fits-all tools, and cre­ate the illu­sion of an open, demo­c­ra­t­ic forum that obscures the gross inequities of real life.

Today’s media land­scape stands in stark con­trast to that of the mid-to-late twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, when inde­pen­dent and alter­na­tive press­es flour­ished, dis­sem­i­nat­ing art, poet­ry, and rad­i­cal pol­i­tics, and offer­ing cus­tom plat­forms for mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties and dis­senters. While the future of inde­pen­dent media seems, today, unclear at best, a look back at the indie press­es of decades past may show a way for­ward.

Para­dox­i­cal­ly, the same tech­nol­o­gy that threat­ens to impose a glob­al mono­cul­ture also enables us to archive and share thou­sands of unique arti­facts from more het­ero­dox ages of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. One stel­lar exam­ple of such an archive, Inde­pen­dent Voic­es—“an open access col­lec­tion of an alter­na­tive press”—stores sev­er­al hun­dred dig­i­tized copies of peri­od­i­cals “pro­duced by fem­i­nists, dis­si­dent GIs, cam­pus rad­i­cals, Native Amer­i­cans, anti-war activists, Black Pow­er advo­cates, His­pan­ics, LGBT activists, the extreme right-wing press and alter­na­tive lit­er­ary mag­a­zines dur­ing the lat­ter half of the 20th cen­tu­ry.”

These pub­li­ca­tions come from the spe­cial col­lec­tions of sev­er­al dozen libraries and indi­vid­u­als and span the years 1951 to 2016. While exam­ples from recent years show that alter­na­tive print pub­li­ca­tions haven’t dis­ap­peared, the rich­est, most his­tor­i­cal­ly res­o­nant exam­ples tend to come from the 60s and 70s, when the var­i­ous strains of the coun­ter­cul­ture formed col­lec­tive move­ments and aes­thet­ics, often pow­ered by easy-to-use mimeo­graph machines.

As Geor­gia State Uni­ver­si­ty his­to­ri­an John McMil­lian says, the “hun­dreds of rad­i­cal under­ground news­pa­pers” that pro­lif­er­at­ed dur­ing the Viet­nam war “edu­cat­ed and politi­cized young peo­ple, helped to shore up activist com­mu­ni­ties, and were the movement’s pri­ma­ry means of inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion.” These pub­li­ca­tions, notes The New York­er’s Louis Menand, rep­re­sent “one of the most spon­ta­neous and aggres­sive growths in pub­lish­ing his­to­ry.”

With pub­li­ca­tions from the era like And Ain’t I a WomanBread & Ros­es, Black Dia­logue, Gay Lib­er­a­tor, Grunt Free Press, Native Move­ment, and The Yip­ster Times, Inde­pen­dent Voic­es show­cas­es the height of coun­ter­cul­tur­al activist pub­lish­ing. These are only a smat­ter­ing of titles on offer. Each issue is archived in a high-res­o­lu­tion, down­load­able PDF, per­fect for brush­ing up on your gen­er­al knowl­edge of sec­ond-wave fem­i­nism or 60s Black Pow­er; sourc­ing schol­ar­ship on the devel­op­ment of rad­i­cal, alter­na­tive press over the past six­ty years; or find­ing mate­r­i­al to inspire the future of indie media, what­ev­er form it hap­pens to take. Enter the Inde­pen­dent Voic­es archive here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

Down­load 834 Rad­i­cal Zines From a Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Online Archive: Glob­al­iza­tion, Punk Music, the Indus­tri­al Prison Com­plex & More

Down­load 50+ Issues of Leg­endary West Coast Punk Music Zines from the 1970–80s: Dam­age, Slash & No Mag

Enter the Pulp Mag­a­zine Archive, Fea­tur­ing Over 11,000 Dig­i­tized Issues of Clas­sic Sci-Fi, Fan­ta­sy & Detec­tive Fic­tion

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness


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