Mimeo insurrection: the sixties underground press and the long, hot summers of riots

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University of Delaware
This dissertation explores a network of authors associated with the overlapping print culture phenomena known as the Mimeo Revolution and the underground press, and the literary responses to 1960s riots in American cities intended to further insurrection. These riots, known colloquially as “long, hot summers,” precipitated a new vision of insurrection independent from traditional institutions like parties and unions. Likewise, the underground press operated independently, cheaply printing do-it-yourself publications for the counterculture and social movements. I focus on a set of contributors to the underground press who belonged to autonomous projects but found common ground in their interest in the riots: Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts Movement; Black Mask and Up Against the Wall/Motherfucker; Diane di Prima and the Diggers; and the Black Panther Party. I trace their influence on one another and their impact on the broader literary world, notably including Chester Himes. Through archival research, I map an anarchistic network of writer/rioters—that crisscrosses 1960s social movements and the counterculture—cultivating a range of genres, styles, and literary responses to the riots. I argue that these interrelated authors discovered, in the scale and dynamism of the riot, the possibility to envision the world otherwise. Their work invokes a new utopian vision based on the riots’ decentralized crowd, autonomous organization, and spontaneous rebellion. This dissertation proposes that we read these authors as attempting to contribute to the riots of the 1960s in the hopes of advancing toward a liberated future.
Underground press, Riots, Mimeo insurrection