The Way Back: The News Underground

Volunteer staff members at The Rag put together an issue of the weekly underground newspaper, circa 1970.

In 1966, just two months after the tragic Tower shooting, members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at The University of Texas founded the underground newspaper called The Rag. Joining a growing chorus of voices demanding social and political change across the country, the paper became the sixth member of the Underground Press Syndicate and was influential in shaping other underground papers, magazines, and newsletters. The (mostly) weekly paper covered viewpoints the staff of volunteers felt newspapers, TV stations, and The Daily Texan were ignoring—civil rights, the anti-war movement, feminism—while also criticizing the university’s administration. 

Aside from being the first underground paper in the South and an important voice in the Austin countercultural community, The Rag was also the subject of a First Amendment court case after Frank Erwin and the board of regents banned the sale of the publication on campus in 1969. After a four-year battle that ended at the Supreme Court, the paper’s right to distribute on campus was upheld, and its hawkers were free to shout, “Get your rag, get your rag, underground newspaper, good for your mind!” until it ceased publication in 1977.  

Credit: Courtesy Texas Exes archives, photographer unknown


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