Historic Washington Free Press 1967-1969 online

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - Central Library

Historic Washington Free Press 1967-1969 online

Digitized counterculture newspaper now available in Dig DC

DC Public Library Special Collections recently published The Washington Free Press Collection in Dig DC, the library's portal to digital local history archives. The collection contains issues of the underground newspaper the Washington Free Press published from 1967 to 1969.

The WFP was a radical leftist independent newspaper that began publication in Washington, D.C., in 1966. An early member of the Underground Press Syndicate, it was best known for its homemade aesthetic and psychedelic illustrations and coverage of the counterculture, poverty, recreational drugs, student activism, the anti-Vietnam War movement and police brutality. An entire issue of the paper was devoted to the Oct. 21, 1967, anti-war demonstration later known as the Pentagon riot.

The WFP was founded in 1966 as an inter-university newspaper to cover the civil rights and anti-war movements. The paper ceased publication in the summer of 1966 after the first four issues and was resurrected in the spring of 1967 as an “underground” paper published by an editorial collective out of a communal townhouse. The first issue of the reconstituted WFP was published March 26, 1967. The WFP was part of the Liberation News Service, which for a time operated out of the same house, and served as a wire service between underground papers across the country. The last issue of the Washington Free Press appeared mid-December 1969. Several former WFP staff members went on to found the underground newspaper Quicksilver Times in mid-1969.

The Washington Free Press offices were repeatedly searched by local law enforcement and the FBI. Several of the paper's distributors and the paper itself were charged with possession and distribution of obscenity. Most notably, store owner Marshall Woodruff was charged with possession of obscene material over the publication of an R. Crumb cartoon in the WFP. All convictions related to WFP obscenity were eventually reversed, though several exonerations came after the paper's demise.

The issues presented in Dig DC are from the personal collections of Washington Free Press co-founder Art Grosman and drug columnist Pete Novick. Grosman digitized the issues and donated the digital copies to DC Public Library for publication. Please contact DC Public Library if you have any additional issues that would complete our collection. 

DC Public Library Special Collections is also working with the donors to provide access to additional digitized materials, including some records of the newspapers' own history.