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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 200B: Race and the City

Introduces history majors to basic research library concepts (you should master before History 498). Provides both a broad overview of the source types collected by research libraries, and also lists specific sources relevant to research for this course.

On This Page

This page is a guide to finding serial publications of the non-mainstream media, often referred to as “alternative” or “underground” press publications, which include newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and other types of serial publications. These periodicals tend to be written from an acknowledged political perspective–for example, liberal or conservative–and they often promote a specific agenda. They might, however, report on news that is of interest to a specific community–often a marginalized one–without endorsing any defined ideology. Examples of these might be African American newspapers, gay and lesbian magazines, military newspapers, or publications of immigrant groups. The guide covers primarily alternative press publications of the United States, with some coverage of Canada and the United Kingdom.

Alternative newspapers and periodicals are sometimes mistakenly referred to as "underground newspapers." Strictly speaking, an underground publication is one that is published secretly--in other words, the place of publication and identity of the publisher are not disclosed. Most alternative newspapers and periodicals in library collections do not meet this criterion.

Digital Collections

Below are the major digital collections that reproduce alternative periodicals. In some cases, these periodicals are embedded in larger collections of mixed document types (for example: The Sixties: Primary Documents and Personal Narratives).

Article Indexes

Article indexes index the contents of newspapers and periodicals. Historically, periodicals were not digitized, and periodicals were only described in library catalogs with a single record, the record for the periodical itself. Article indexes facilitated the discovery of the actual articles within those periodicals.

Because the Library did not subscribe to every (or even most) alternative periodicals, and because not all alternative periodicals have been digitized, and because not all digitized periodicals are available in a single collection, the article indexes provide the only efficient means of identifying relevant articles from across the widest possible range of periodical publications.

The only article indexes listed in this section are those that are available online, as searchable databases. There are several important article indexes, especially for labor history, that are only available in print, and those are listed in the section Bibliographies, Catalogs, and Guides.

Microfilm Collections

The University Library has hundreds of newspapers on microfilm, with coverage back to 1960 and earlier. The best way to check for availability of specific titles, or to browse by date and place of publication, is to consult the Library’s Newspaper Database:

You can also search the Newspaper Database for periodicals devoted to a specific subject (for example: feminism, socialism, military, LBGTQ, labor).

Below are listed some of the major microfilm sets:

Bibliographies, Catalogs, and Guides

Other Libraries

Learn More


Bizot, Jean-François. Free Press: Underground and Alternative Publications, 1965-1975. Trans. David H. Wilson. New York: Universe Publishing, 2006.

Carpenter, Gerald. “Alternative Press.” The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Eds. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 60-62.

Wachsberger, Ken, ed. Voices from the Underground. Tempe, Ariz.: Mica Press, 1993.

Barlow, Aaron. “The Rise of the Blogosphere: Alternative Journalism.” The Rise of the Blogosphere. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2007.

Cohen, Mitchell. “Decades of Dissent.” Dissent 51, no. 2 (Winter, 2004): 5-8.

Halleck, DeeDee. “Alternative Media in the United States.” Battleground: The Media. Eds. Robin Andersen and Jonathan Gray. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2008.

Shore, Elliott. “Decade of Dissent: The Alternative Press in Philadelphia, 1966-1976.” Drexel Library Quarterly 12 (July, 1976): 59-74.