National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version


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UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity:


Copyright (c) 2016 by the author.


Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, underground newspapers such as Milwaukee’s Kaleidoscope documented, reported on, and informed the burgeoning American counterculture. These papers served many functions. They discussed drug experiences and reported on local news and events, from concerts to protests and police brutality. They reviewed the newest psychedelic rock albums, published poetry and artwork, and sought to challenge their readership (and, by extension, mainstream America) by introducing new and radical ideas. They reprinted communiques from leftist organizations such as the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and, later, the Weather Underground. Most importantly, they gave the counterculture and the mass movement growing alongside it a venue to articulate its desires and aims. I will explore how the underground press, as exemplified by Milwaukee’s Kaleidoscope, acted as a venue for intramovement discourse, an arena for kinks to be worked out and grievances aired. Drawing primarily on the complete run of Kaleidoscope as well as an oral history of the paper provided by John Kois, the paper’s co-founder and managing editor for most of its run, I will discuss both how Kaleidoscope can be used as a case study of the broader role of the underground press, and how it differed from its conventional contemporaries in important ways. I will argue that underground newspapers were more than just sounding boards for the counterculture and played a vital role in the articulation of the politics of a mass movement.