RAT: Subterranean News was published in New York City during the most intense period of the counter culture movement in 1968-69.
As activist journalists, the individuals involved reported from inside an insurrection at Columbia University, the Woodstock music festival, and massive antiwar demonstrations at the Chicago Democratic Convention. Stories about the Black Panthers and ghetto insurrections, the draft resistance and antiwar underground movement, the Weatherman bombings, plans from the closely affiliated Students for a Democratic Society, the creation of the Yippies, the rise of the women’s liberation movement, the Stonewall riots leading to gay and gender liberation, the genesis of the environmental movement, critical evaluations of the status quo – all of these are hard to find in original reports and documents.
The RAT photographers were brave war correspondents reporting from the middle of a battle zone. The cartoonists and graphics artists were exceptional, funny, ironic and inspiring. In retrospect, the layout overseen by art director Bob Eisner broke new ground for news design. RAT was revolutionary in the concept of how a newspaper could look and report news. This historic paper influenced publications far into the future.
Because this period occurred before the internet, little original material from this critical period of American rebellion exists. Leading libraries only contain a few issues of RAT on microfilm.
Enter the RAT book project. With access to a near-complete archive of papers, editor Jeff Shero Nightbyrd is creating a project to tell the full story of RAT through an epublication with archived material from RAT and a print book. The book is chock full of stories about the people, places and events that made the RAT, the RAT. Look for stories about beat poet Allen Ginsberg, singer Janice Joplin, cartoonist R. Crumb and more. The book and online publication are slated for release this summer.
FBI documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act include this analysis of RAT:
“Only a handful of the papers strike me as having a distinct character, useful, original material, and rich, imaginative writing…The paper, named after the small, tough, and durable rodent of the underground, defined itself in a first anniversary editorial last March as an ‘experiment in participatory journalism.’”