Sean Stewart was born in 1979 and grew up in Kingston, Jamaica. Between 2007 and 2009 he owned and ran Babylon Falling, a bookstore and gallery in San Francisco, and now, in an attempt at denying his Traveller heritage, has settled in Brooklyn. He is hard at work on something.
Check out a visual preview of On the Ground below!
On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S. Authors: Sean Stewart Publisher: PM Press ISBN: 978-1-60486-455-7 Published November 2011 Format: Paperback Size: 9 by 6 Page count: 208 Pages Subjects: U.S. History-60's $20.00
In four short years (1965–1969), the underground press grew from five small newspapers in as many cities in the U.S. to over 500 newspapers—with millions of readers—all over the world. Completely circumventing (and subverting) establishment media by utilizing their own news service and freely sharing content amongst each other, the underground press, at its height, became the unifying institution for the counterculture of the 1960s.
Frustrated with the lack of any mainstream media criticism of the Vietnam War, empowered by the victories of the Civil Rights era, emboldened by the anti-colonial movements in the third world and with heads full of acid, a generation set out to change the world. The underground press was there documenting, participating in, and providing the resources that would guarantee the growth of this emergent youth culture. Combining bold visuals, innovative layouts, and eschewing any pretense toward objectivity, the newspapers were wildly diverse and wonderfully vibrant.
Neither meant to be an official nor comprehensive history, On the Ground focuses on the anecdotal detail that brings the history alive. Comprised of stories told by the people involved with the production and distribution of the newspapers—John Sinclair, Art Kunkin, Paul Krassner, Emory Douglas, John Wilcock, Bill Ayers, Spain Rodriguez, Trina Robbins, Al Goldstein, Harvey Wasserman and more—and featuring over 50 full-color scans taken from a broad range of newspapers—Basta Ya, Berkeley Barb, Berkeley Tribe, Chicago Seed, Helix, It Ain’t Me Babe, Los Angeles Free Press, Osawatomie, Rat Subterranean News, San Francisco Express Times, San Francisco Oracle, Screw: The Sex Review, The Black Panther, The East Village Other, The Realist and many more—the book provides a true window into the spirit of the times, giving the reader a feeling for the energy on the ground.
“On the Ground serves as a valuable contribution to countercultural history.” —Paul Krassner, author of Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture
“One should not underestimate the significant value of this book. It gives you real insights into the underground press and its vast diversity of publications, which translated into a taste of real people's power.” —Emory Douglas, former Black Panther Party graphic artist and Minister of Culture
His editing takes a little time to grow on the reader, but it is useful. He selects excerpts from interviews with, or writings by, various underground editors or authors - whether they be Jewish high-school students, middle-class Midwesterners or members of the Black Panther movement - and isolates them into subjects within chapters.
After a while, you get to know the different personalities and move with the times and the themes that Stewart has selected. In so doing, he creates a superb history of America at one of its most stimulating periods of political and social growth. Anybody wanting to understand what modern America is all about should read this volume.
On the Ground: A Review by Matthew Newton Guernica August 1, 2012
Guernica: In the book, you talk with a cross section of people who were involved in the production and distribution of underground publications such as the Berkeley Barb, Chicago Seed, Helix, Los Angeles Free Press, The East Village Other, Screw: The Sex Review, and The Black Panther, among others. During your interviews, did any specific conversation help you better understand the social and political tone of that time period?
Sean Stewart: If I had to single out just one, it would be my conversation with Alice Embree of the Austin paper, The Rag. She helped me to get a deeper understanding of just how insidious the male chauvinism in the movement was and why the emergence of Women’s Liberation, and its manifestation in the underground press, was inevitable.
… we’re all familiar with the cases of overt oppression that existed, but it’s much harder to identify or even articulate the nature of the oppression that is hardwired into the culture.
The underground press of the 1960s is widely considered by participants to be one of the most influential factors in the radical social movements of the time and a lasting influence on American culture. This book offers a window into the ferment of the underground press through a combination of short interview excerpts in which prominent figures of the underground press reflect on their experiences in producing their work together with photo-reproductions of text and images from such publications as The Black Panther, East Village Other, Helix, Los Angeles Free Press, The Realist, and more.
On the Ground: A Review By Lolita Lark RalphMag February 2012
If you are an old underground fan like I am, the pictures here will knock you out. Full page spreads from the Barb or the Seed or Rat ... and the drawings: "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" --- I actually had friends from back then that looked like the three of them. Oh, the cartoons. My god, there are a couple here by Crumb that in the not-so-stoned 21st century could get you locked up in the gray-bar hotel. We're surprised that PM had the guts to publish them. And as I am writing this I am thinking: What has happened to us now? What are we so afraid of now?
Notes from the Underground By Steven Heller Imprint December 5th, 2011
A new book, On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S. (PM Press) Edited by Sean Stewart (who between 2007 and 2009 owned and operated Babylon Falling, a bookstore and gallery in San Francisco), recalls the Underground epoch. Through interlacing interviews with Emory Douglas (Black Panther), Paul Krassner (The Realist), Art Kunkin (The L.A. Free Press), Abe Peck (The Chicago Seed), John Wilcock (Other Scenes), Jeff Shero (The Rat), Trina Robbins (Gothic Blimp Works) and many more (including Al Goldstein of Screw), the remarkable journals that shaped my life (and career) are revived as oral history.
And there's a healthy dose of underground comics and comic book covers, too. In addition to the wonderful imagery, Stewart has collected an oral history of the time, interviewing former underground press editors, artists, and scene makers. On the Ground is a pure visual treat, and is our choice as our #1 holiday gift for friends and family.
On the Ground: New Book Collection of 60s Underground Press By Ron Jacobs Counterpunch December 2nd-4th, 2011
The best part of the book are the graphics. As I read through the memories of the folks Stewart spoke with for On the Ground I was repeatedly surprised at how well I remembered various illustrations and photographs Stewart reprinted throughout the text. Like the papers his interviewees are remembering, the most striking thing about On the Ground is the layout.
Even though I know the book was composed on a computer screen, the book looks as if it were laid out via the old cut and paste method by folks possibly stoned on weed and a day or two with minimal sleep–just like many issues of almost every paper Stewart discusses.