Students met with author Dale Brumfield in Cabell Library yesterday to discuss the history of independent and student-operated print publications in the city of Richmond.
Brumfield, author of “Richmond Independent Press: A History of the Underground Zine Scene,” graduated from VCU with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1981 and is currently a graduate student majoring in creative writing. His book explores how Independent and student-operated newspapers, magazines and other print publications are still a major part of Richmond’s cultural history.
“Richmond was actually one of the few cities that started the boom in underground publications and literature in the ‘60s … it wasn’t big cities like New York, Chicago, Seattle or Portland,” Brumfield said.
Brumfield said the individuals leading the rise of independent publications in Richmond were the students of VCU, who discussed that era’s youth culture and promoted social change.
“Even back then, VCU students and alumni were publishing magazines and articles about … under-the-radar artists, social injustices perpetrated by the government and important underground movements that fight against these injustices,” Brumfield said. “They were bullied and persecuted by the authorities for questioning them and speaking their mind.”
Several students who attended the event found the discussion and Brumfield’s book to be surprising and intriguing, especially from a historical perspective.
Graduate student Connor McCormick said he was surprised that Richmond had a history of intense journalistic activism during the Civil Rights Movement and the ‘70s.
“What really caught my eye was the picture of the magazine cover of Richmond’s The Sun Flower, where it shows two riot police officers beating a hippie in the fetal position and a line at the bottom of the picture says Have A Nice Summer,” McCormick said. “I was also amazed to hear about the lengths the FBI went through to try to shut the down the Richmond Chronicle … they cut the power to their meeting places … and arrested people who had a copy for possession of obscene materials.”
Freshman anthropology student Zyla Aunenberg said she found the history of Richmond’s independent art and journalism culture impressive and fascinating.
“It’s mind-blowing to see how slightly different but also how intensely similar our art culture is now to the art culture back then,” Aunenberg said. “We may have had different styles or mediums of expression with the artists and writers who came before us, but our motives and our reasons for creating art and writing stories are still, essentially the same … we stand on the shoulders of giants and that sort of thing.”
Brumfield’s book is available on Amazon for $14.48.
Excerpts from Brumfield’s book were published in The CT Summer issue.