“A raucous, absorbing excursion back to the 1960s and ’70s.” — Kirkus Reviews
Making Austin weird!
Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper tells the remarkable story of the legendary underground newspaper that sparked a political and cultural revolution and helped make Austin weird.
The book features more than 100 articles from The Rag’s 11-year history, plus contemporary essays and eye-popping vintage art and photography. This collection captures the radical politics and subversive humor that marked the pages of this upstart newspaper between 1966 and 1977.
Celebrating The Rag was edited by Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, and Richard Croxdale, designed by Carlos Lowry, and published by the Austin, Texas-based New Journalism Project.
Celebrating The Rag can be purchased online at Lulu.com, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and through Ingram.
If you purchase at Amazon, please use Amazon Smile and make the New Journalism Project your charity of choice.
In Houston, get Celebrating The Rag at Brazos Bookstore.
♦ The story of the book
“Celebrating The Rag brings it all back home — the subversive humor, the courage, the creativity of Texas radicals in the 1960s. New generations can finally learn who really made Austin weird and outrageous. This collection of vintage and classic articles from the great underground newspaper, The Rag, establishes for all time the importance of Texas in the landscape of Sixties radicalism.” – Historian Doug Rossinow, author of Politics of Authenticity
“Celebrating The Rag is a luving homage to quite possibly the best underground newspaper of its era, selecting and reprinting The Rag’s greatest hits, but also providing excellent reflections and recollections written from the present day… Designer Carlos Lowry uses the original artwork to capture that groovy, mind-warping visual underground comix flavor that distinguished The Rag…” – Novelist Thomas Zigal, author of Many Rivers to Cross
“In its eleven years of publication, The Rag would evolve into a national voice, playing a role in at least one major Supreme Court case and, as one of the first underground papers, becoming a template for the alternative newsweeklies that would follow, in effect influencing the business of journalism…” – Michael Hoinski, Texas Monthly
Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper tells the remarkable story of the legendary underground publication that sparked a political and cultural revolution and helped make Austin weird.
The book features more that 100 articles pulled from the The Rag’s 380 issues that were published in Austin, Texas, over an 11-year span between October 10, 1966, and May 9, 1977. The 300-page, 8 ½ by 11 book also features new material, written by former Rag staffers, that provides historical context from a contemporary perspective. And eye-popping vintage art and photography, including Rag covers, illustrations, underground comix, and advertising art created by some of the leading graphic artists of the underground era.
The book was published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of The Rag‘s founding, and in conjunction with an ambitious Rag Reunion and Public Celebration held October 13-16, 2016, at multiple Austin venues. The slogan was “50 Years and Still Raising Hell!” and Ragstaffers are still raising hell five decades later with The Rag Blog and the syndicated Rag Radio show.
Noted for its unique blend of New Left politics and ‘60s alternative culture — presented with a hearty dose of irreverent Texas humor and psychedelic art — The Rag was one of the earliest and most influential of the 1960s-‘70s underground papers that spread across the country in what the New Yorker called “one of the most spontaneous and aggressive growths in publishing history.”
Historian Laurence Leamer called The Rag “one of the few legendary undergrounds,” and Robert C. Cottrell, author of Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Rise of America’s 1960 Counterculture, wrote:
The vibrancy of The Rag… demonstrated that the allure of the underground press was hardly limited to the two coasts and was resonating across the American landscape… Given its location in Austin, one of the epicenters for both the Movement and the counterculture, The Rag and its history remain of considerable import in understanding the era’s zeitgeist.
The paper published alternative news and analysis and its staff was directly involved in the burgeoning movement for social change, the cultural revolution, and the anti-war and student power movements — and The Rag would evolve with the times, becoming a leading voice of the women’s liberation movement and covering labor, the environment, gay liberation, Austin city politics, and community issues.
Working with attorney Sarah Weddington, staffers at The Rag were instrumental in crafting the landmark abortion rights case, Roe v. Wade. And in 1970, the regents at the University of Texas sued The Rag to prevent the paper from being sold on campus and famed civil liberties attorney David Richards successfully defended the paper’s First Amendment rights before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Gilbert Shelton’s iconic Sixties comic strip that gained a worldwide following, was born in The Rag, and surrealist graphic artist Jim Franklin — who almost single-handedly transformed the lowly armadillo into a symbol for the Texas counterculture — designed many of the paper’s covers. The Rag also featured the work of noted graphic artists like Kerry Awn and Trudy Minkoff and acclaimed documentary photographer Alan Pogue.
UT-Austin professor Julia Mickenberg pointed to the value of Celebrating The Rag as a historical resource:
There is so much to say about this wonderful book and the history it vividly embodies. But as a scholar and an educator what most strikes me is how useful it is: what a great resource it will be for anyone teaching about the sixties and seventies… It also offers a treasure trove of photographs, visual art, and insights into the links between aesthetic and political radicalism.
Or, as noted author Mike Davis remarked,
Fracking unbelievable, but the mirthful Rag still flies over Austin and the beat goes on.
Editors Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, and Richard Croxdale all worked with The Rag at different points during its 11-year run. Dreyer was the paper’s founding “funnel” — The Rag’s non-authoritarian version of an editor — and now edits The Rag Blog and hosts the syndicated Rag Radio show, which represent the paper’s rebirth into the digital age. Writer and longtime peace and justice activist Alice Embree, also a veteran of the women’s liberation movement, helped found The Rag, and filmmaker Richard Croxdale worked with the paper in its later years. Designer Carlos Lowry is an Austin-based painter, muralist, graphic artist, and web developer who has created covers for small press books and record albums.
The New Journalism Project, publisher of Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, is a Texas nonprofit corporation (P.O. Box 16442, Austin, TX 78761) that publishes The Rag Blog, sponsors Rag Radio, and organizes political and cultural activities in Austin, Texas.
♦ Words of praise for Celebrating The Rag
I could not stop reading this amazing collection. This book is a mother lode of documentation from the heady years 1966-77, all the more pertinent in being from the heart of Texas, with more than a hundred articles from the nearly 400 issues of The Rag, one of the stars and longest-lasting of the iconic publications of the underground press. The original articles are contextualized by brilliant essays, including an essential 21st century look-back by Thorne Dreyer, who was the founding ‘funnel’ of The Rag.
–Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author of Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975
Celebrating The Rag brings it all back home — the subversive humor, the courage, the creativity of Texas radicals in the 1960s. New generations can finally learn who really made Austin weird and outrageous. This collection of vintage and classic articles from the great underground newspaper, The Rag, establishes for all time the importance of Texas in the landscape of Sixties radicalism. The fabulous drawings of the time, in their hallucinogenic glory, are mind-blowing, and the photographs show people who cared about making change and keeping it real, not making the scene. Young and old(er) alike need to read it. You’ll love it.
–Doug Rossinow, historian and author of The Politics of Authenticity
Fracking unbelievable, but the mirthful Rag still flies over Austin and the beat goes on. Look inside for fiery samples of the most brilliant career in alternative journalism.
–Mike Davis, author of Planet of Quartz, City of Slums, and Ecology of Fear
More important than its claim to being the ‘live music capital of the world,’ Austin is the birthplace of The Rag, one of the most innovative and influential underground newspapers of the 1960s and ‘70s. Austin was a hotbed of radical political thought in the South, and those radical ideas pulsed through the city via The Rag, which not only covered the news but often made news, and in the process made a bit of history.
Celebrating the Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, coming on the 50th anniversary of its founding, makes that history more widely available. Editors Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, and Richard Croxdale have compiled a lively collection of original articles, at a time when radical politics is more necessary than ever and the example of The Rag’s “functioning anarchy” is as inspirational as ever.
–Robert Jensen, professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin, and author of Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully
There is so much to say about this wonderful book and the history it vividly embodies. But as a scholar and an educator what most strikes me is how useful it is: what a great resource it will be for anyone teaching about the sixties and seventies, the underground press, radical social movements in general, or particular struggles such as the anti-war movement, women’s liberation, gay liberation, sexual liberation, anti-racist activism, efforts to expose and combat prison and police brutality, student movements, or labor. It also offers a treasure trove of photographs, visual art, and insights into the links between aesthetic and political radicalism. This book is a great tribute to years of The Rag and the people behind it, but it’s also an invaluable resource.
–Julia Mickenberg, Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of Learning from the Left: Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States
Between the covers of this marvelous collection rests a treasure trove of essays, letters and remembrances that breathe new life into the old Austin — when one of the nation’s sassiest counterculture publications defined progressive thought in Texas and beyond. The Rag helped make Austin the hip and happening place to be for decades. Remarkably, it soldiers on in the 21st century. Bravo!
–Ellen Sweets, former reporter for The Dallas Morning News, St. Louis Post Dispatch, and The Denver Post, and author of Stirring It Up with Molly Ivins
“Brought to you by the miracle of functioning anarchy,” as its motto stated, The Rag was a product of grassroots populist instincts, growing organically out of the left counterculture community. A wild and rowdy upstart that was heavily anti-authoritarian and committed to the concept of participatory democracy, its activist-journalists were leading the movements they reported on. There would be hundreds of underground papers, but The Rag was unique, in a class by itself.
♦ Editorial reviews
Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaperby Kirkus Reviews. Review posted online, April 10, 2017; Kirkus Reviews issue, May 15, 2017
A remembrance of an American underground newspaper, as presented by former staffers.
This collection of articles, editorials, and artwork honors the Rag, Austin, Texas’ storied underground newspaper that lasted from 1966 to 1977. Dedicated to keeping Austin weird (before the bumper stickers that carried that motto), the paper was a paean to the counterculture and all it entailed—everything from anti-war articles and chronicles of social change (civil rights, women’s liberation) to Gilbert Shelton’s legendary comic strip “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers,” which premiered in the Rag in May 1968. Staffers called the paper “A miracle of functioning anarchy,” which seems accurate, and this history is as comprehensive as it is authentic. Some pieces are a bit scattershot in style, but to borrow the vernacular of its time, the Rag was mostly right-on, covering such milestones as the 1968 Democratic Convention, the 1969 Woodstock music festival, and the 1970 Kent State shootings. However, the book is more than a reprise of the counterculture’s greatest hits. True, the usual suspects show up as subjects, including Allen Ginsberg (who’s interviewed here) and Bob Dylan, but the collection doesn’t just trade in nostalgia; it’s too honest for that. Some pieces get bogged down in local politics—such as a detailed account of an 1972 Austin bus strike—but for the most part, they reflect the splintered national psyche as it was. And on occasion, they’re eerily prescient; for example, in one 1968 essay that mentions the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, the author wonders, “Will John Lennon be next?” Most of all, this book reminds readers that everything old is indeed new again—or perhaps never went away. Consider this excerpt from 1969: “good jobs are not always open to women, women are paid less than men for the same kind of work, women are promoted less frequently than men, and are less likely to be ‘at the top.’ ” Sadly, that could’ve been written yesterday.
A raucous, absorbing excursion back to the 1960s and ’70s.
— Kirkus Reviews
Read the review online here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/thorne-dreyer/celebrating-rag/
“Celebrating The Rag is a marvelous compendium that captures the paper’s unique spirit,” by Thomas Zigal at The Rag Blog, November 5, 2016
…The Rag was magnificent. Informative, hilarious, righteously angry when it needed to be, and the perfect melding of New Left politics and hippie dope-smoking, Hendrix-loving cool…
Designer Carlos Lowry uses the original artwork to capture that groovy, mind-warping visual underground comix flavor that distinguished The Rag from the more dour radical newspapers of the ’60s and ’70s…
Celebrating the Rag is a luving homage to quite possibly the best underground newspaper of its era, selecting and reprinting The Rag’s greatest hits, but also providing excellent reflections and recollections written from the present day. The new contributions, like Alice Embree’s heartbreaking “The Murder of George J. Vizard IV,” are fond and often very moving evocations of another time and place, with affectionate tributes to their friends and comrades.
But the writing is never maudlin or sentimental. And in his superb and informative introduction to the book, “Rag Mama Rag,” Thorne Dreyer puts The Rag in historical context, describing where it fit in the underground newspaper movement of the ’60s and quoting numerous scholars and notable observers who praise The Rag’s originality in a crowded and colorful field…
Read the full review here: http://www.theragblog.com/thomas-zigal-celebrating-the-rag-is-a-marvelous-compendium-that-captures-the-papers-unique-spirit/.
Book Review: Celebrating the Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, by Allen Young, The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture, Vol 9, No 2; published online April 17, 201l
The book is a valuable resource, offering readers an excellent and complete overview of what the 1960s counter-culture and political movements of the era were all about, while also providing unique insights into the life and people of Austin, a relatively small city. Now a growing metropolis, Austin served then and still is the state capital, the home of the University of Texas, and a regional cultural mecca…
How appropriate… that the book cover features the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers celebrating “The Rag…50 Years!” These are the iconic cartoon characters created by Gilbert Shelton and launched on the pages of the Rag in 1968…
[But] serious politics, not pot or acid, was the foundation of The Rag, as evidenced throughout the book. Rag staffers personified the saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” but despite the comics and the fooling around, this book clearly indicates how much hard work went into chronicling the struggles for social justice and political changes in the 1960s.
Read the full review here:
or at The Rag Blog here:
“Notes From the Underground: The Rag once made Austin ground zero for progressive journalism, by Michael Hoinski at Texas Monthly, October 13, 2016
To most people, the story of Austin’s progressive streak begins in the early seventies, when the Armadillo World Headquarters opened, Willie Nelson moved to Austin from Nashville, and people started getting high on cosmic country. But Austin’s roots in weirdness extend even deeper into the caliche soil, to at least 1966, when a handful of members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Texas founded the underground newspaper the Rag. The paper took aim at UT’s administration, which was threatening drastic tuition hikes, among other ostensibly draconian measures. It also covered civil rights, the Vietnam War, women’s liberation, the Chicano movement, and unions like the United Farm Workers.
In its eleven years of publication, the Rag would evolve into a national voice, playing a role in at least one major Supreme Court case and, as one of the first underground papers, becoming a template for the alternative newsweeklies that would follow, in effect influencing the business of journalism…
As part of [the Rag Reunion], there will be a screening of the documentary film The Rag: Underground Newspaper 1966–1977, which will pair nicely with the recently published anthology Celebrating the Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, featuring more than one hundred articles and an abundance of wonderful art…
Read the full article here: http://www.texasmonthly.com/travel/notes-from-the-underground-2/.
“Celebrating the Rag: Austin’s iconic underground newspaper,” Jonathan Tilove, Austin American-Statesman, February 17, 2017
I miss The Rag.
Of course, I only arrived in Austin in December 2012, so I missed The Rag, which published its first issue in October 1966 and its last in May 1977, by several decades.
But, reading Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, a remarkable collection of more that 100 articles spanning what, for an underground paper, was its lengthy and hugely eventful eleven-year run, I miss it and the era it embodied and reflected….
[Tilove’s long “First Reading” blog piece features an interview with original Rag “funnel” Thorne Dreyer, excerpts from other reviews of Celebrating The Rag, an excerpt about The Rag from John McMillian”s Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America, an excerpt from David Garrow’s review of Sarah Weddington’s book, A Matter of Choice, about the role The Rag and Rag staffers played in the development of Roe v. Wade, plus screen grabs and transcribed sound bites from People’s History in Texas’ documentary film about The Rag.]
Read the full article here: http://politics.blog.mystatesman.com/2017/02/17/celebrating-the-rag-austins-iconic-underground-newspaper/
“The Rag” by Jonah Raskin at the Anderson Valley Advertiser (“Fanning the Flames of Discontent”), Boonville, CA, November 23, 2016
…Now, in their 60s and 70s, the aging veterans of the 1960s like to remember the heady days of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and rebellion, that volatile quartet that hasn’t lost its appeal yet.
Moreover, if the boomers were associated with an underground newspaper, they’re likely to recall the glory days when hippie journalists, pot smoking photographers and daring editors created scandalous sheets with names like The Seed from Chicago, The Rat from New York, and The Rag, which emerged from Austin, Texas, an island of sorts in the Lone Star State…
Celebrating “The Rag” (New Journalism Project; ISBN # 978-1-365-39954-8) brings readers back to the years that stretched from 1966 to 1976, roughly the same time-period as the War in Vietnam which fueled the underground press, so called because it was oppositional and countercultural.
The writing from The Rag is surprisingly intelligent, the poetry still resonates and the cartoons and sketches by the likes of Gilbert Shelton, Jim Franklin and Trudy Minkoff are classics of their kind…
Celebrating “The Rag” is of particular value to citizens of Austin and Texas, but not only to them. It ought to be of interest to anyone who cares about the underground press. Moreover, It ought to be of interest to anyone who wants to see what creative, anti-authoritarian types did without I-phones, laptops and the Internet.
Celebrating “The Rag” is a mirror that reflects the changing movements, causes, issues and events that animated The Sixties, from the military draft to Woodstock and from there to food-coops and socialism. Nearly everything and everyone is here, from Allen Ginsberg and Frank Zappa to Wonder Woman who holds a speculum and cries out, “At Your Cervix.”
Read the full article here:
“The Underground Press: Celebrating The Rag,” by Nick Licata, ZNet, September 19, 2017
What Happened to The Underground Press?
The answer to that question is not simple but I do explore it in my book review of Celebrating The Rag, which extracts many articles from an era when Austin’s underground paper The Rag was published (1967 to 1977). The book provides a window into a time of counter-cultural revolution, where close to 300 underground, community run, newspapers shared a mission to disrupt the status quo. In doing so, they introduced new ways of looking at the world, and for the most part in a non-dogmatic way.
This book review ran on the Znet website which describes itself as “A Community of People Committed to Social Change.”
—Nick Licata, Urban Politics – US
…One of the earliest and most successful of [the underground] papers was Austin’s The Rag; publishing nearly 400 issues running 11 years from 1967 to 1977. Three former Rag Editors and writers, Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree and Richard Croxdale, have published Celebrating The Rag…
Celebrating The Rag’s articles vividly tell the stories of how their staff, writers and readers continually supported the organizing efforts to oppose any institution that hampered the freedom of individuals to seek a productive life. The Rag’s own organizational structure reflected these values…
…what stands out is a culture of challenging the dominant status quo as the path forward in creating a better nation for everyone. The Rag, along with local Austin chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, in a seemingly innocuous manner broke through the dominant group think that, like a thick fog, hung over not only college campuses but all citizens…
The legacy of the underground press was to question all authority and seek answers based on independently verifiable knowledge and not on what was being provided by those in power. The Rag exemplified a first-rate execution of that objective.
Read the full review here:
♦ The book, The Rag, and Roe v. Wade
Those of us who treasure reproductive rights owe a great debt to Ragstaffers. At a time when the U.T. Health Center would not provide contraception or information about avoiding pregnancy, Judy Smith, Bea Durden, and Victoria Foe started the work of collecting information about contraception and disseminating that information in The Rag and women’s consciousness-raising meetings. As questions about abortion came up, they were the key people (with help from other Ragstaffers), investigating the subject of abortion and finding good places to refer people for medical services and the bad places people should stay away from. They were the people most likely to be on the telephone answering calls for information, sometimes arranging transportation for people to get to providers, and, when needed, helping to organize necessary funds.
After Judy’s “special guy” Jim Wheelis started at the U.T. School of Law where I had graduated and was then working, we were joined one morning in the snack bar there by Ron Weddington, another law student. Judy talked me into volunteering to file a lawsuit against the Texas anti-abortion law; Jim and Ron enthusiastically agreed to help with research and encouragement. Barbara Hines, a U.T. law student, was most helpful in preparing the documents in the case. That coffee meeting was the beginning of Roe v. Wade, the case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, l973, which overturned the anti-abortion statute in Texas and, by extension, throughout the U.S.
YEAH for those Ragstaffers and the others who made major contributions!
–Sarah Weddington, Attorney who argued and won Roe v. Wade, former Texas state legislator, and author of A Question of Choice