Red Dust and Broadsides


The engrossing story of two prominent American radicals

In stock


A Joint Autobiography

By Agnes “Sis” Cunningham and Gordon Friesen
Edited by Ronald D. Cohen
Foreword by Pete Seeger
University of Massachusetts Press

Perhaps best known for Broadside, the influential magazine they founded in 1962, Agnes “Sis” Cunningham and Gordon Friesen have long been renowned figures on the American left. In this book, these two dedicated social activists—Sis the folk musician and Gordon the radical journalist—offer a spirited account of their personal and political odyssey. The story is illustrated with numerous photographs and drawings.

Born into poverty in rural Oklahoma, further shaped by the hardships of the “dustbowl” Depression years, Sis and Gordon were already committed to radical causes when they met and married in 1941. A short time later they moved to New York City, where they befriended Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Sis joined the folk protest group the Almanac Singers, and Gordon continued his work as a journalist.

Although blacklisted for their political views during the McCarthy era, Sis and Gordon persevered and eventually launched Broadside, which they continued to produce for almost twenty years. The magazine was instrumental in promoting the careers of many singer-songwriters, publishing the first works of such artists as Bob Dylan, Janis Ian, Phil Ochs, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Tom Paxton, as well as the works of more established figures, including Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger. Indeed, Broadside gave birth to a musical revival that energized the country and forged a vital link between the folk music of the 1930s and 1940s and the urban folk revivalists of the 1960s and 1970s.

“Beware starting to read this book late at night. . . . I couldn’t put it down. How lucky we are, how lucky future generations are, that [Sis and Gordon] got their story down on paper.”—Pete Seeger, from the Foreword

“What is so exhilarating about the saga of Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen is the spirit that pervades: the resilience of the human being. In their story is the history of a country as experienced by two people of imagination and gallantry, of grace under pressure. During the McCarthy red scare they challenged bullies in their own way and survived to tell the tale. And what a lovely tale it is!”—Studs Terkel, author of Working

Additional information

Weight 23.9 oz
Dimensions 9.25 × 6 × 1 in


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