In the fall of 1967, a small group of people wanting to effect changes in society conceived the idea of creating a newspaper, The Great Speckled Bird, that would cover subjects and perspectives too often ignored or covered only selectively by the city’s other news outlets. These subjects included civil rights, women’s liberation, lesbian and gay liberation, anti-war activism, urban development, police brutality, the environment, labor struggles, international politics and freedom struggles, and countercultural arts and entertainment. While The Bird, as the paper was known, was one of many underground newspapers that appeared in the United States in the 1960s, it stood out among the alternative press for its high-quality analysis and graphic design and for its equal attention to politics and culture. With its fearless opinions and reporting on a wide range of topics, The Bird was a new, radical voice from the South.
Although published for only eight years, from 1968 to 1976 (plus brief revivals in 1984–1985 and 2006), The Bird was emblematic of the era’s desire for and commitment to social change. The Bird had a significant and lasting impact on those that produced and read the paper as well as on those who would continue to fight for and write about freedom, equality, and justice in the decades after the paper ceased publication. After The Bird’s demise due to increased competition from other local papers and a shrinking circle of available staffers and contributors, many of its contributors and readers continued on with the work of fighting for freedom and equality—both in the U.S. South and on the international stage—and they continue to do so. Still other members of this radical network worked in labor organizing and the growing food cooperative movement or forged influential careers in law, education, and mental health, continuing The Bird’s calls to action around social justice, activism, and community building.
Special Collections and Archives houses a complete run of The Bird’s published issues and collaborated with some of the paper’s founders and staff to digitize this unique content. Now readers anywhere in the world can experience a glimpse into radical Atlanta and learn about the city’s history of activism, protest, and counterculture. The online newspaper collection is supplemented by an ongoing oral history project, in which we interview those responsible for creating The Bird and preserve stories of their individual lives and experiences, the history and legacy of The Bird, and 20th-century Atlanta.