Wednesday, January 17, 2007

African American Newspapers

The Historical Context of African American Newspapers: The 19th Century and The Chicago Defender

When Woodrow Wilson was mentioned in the Chicago Defender, it stated "President Woodrow Wilson (white) yesterday announced..." because that was how the African Americans of the time were cited in white-owned papers.

Last weekend I was watching TV (okay, so I watch a lot of TV while knitting and spinning) and I saw a fantastic program on PBS called The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords (Video #4678). Like much of what passes for entertainment on television today, it was fascinating. It delved into the blossoming of Black-owned newspapers all over the country after the Civil War when African Americans, especially in the South, were first allowed to read and write and used their literacy to keep abreast of what was happening in their world and also to actively change it.

When certain cities, again especially in the South, outlawed the distribution of the newspapers, Pullman Porters distributed them between towns by tossing bundles of them off trains. They said each purchased paper of the Chicago Defender was read by 4-5 people, since they were passed among friends.

More information, the entire transcript of the program, additional transcripts and videos of journalists, historians, and everyday folks talking about the importance of Black-owned newspapers are available free on PBS's website: The Black Press.

The UF libraries have electronic access to a database of African American Newspapers from the 19th century. We also have access to the Chicago Defender through the Black Studies Center.

In addition, if you search in our catalog under the subject "african american newspapers," you'll find 6 newspapers. However, if you look at that result list, you'll see that in many entries "african american newspapers" is followed by the name of a state in the U.S. Thus, we have a newspaper or newspapers from that state in microfilm. We probably have newspapers from at least 20-25 states. Often more than one from each state. (The following is just one page of the results list.)

Browse List: Subject Previous Page Next Page
No. of Recs Brief Recs Entry
African American newspapers -- Georgia
African American newspapers -- History
African American newspapers -- History -- 19th century
African American newspapers -- History -- 20th century
African American newspapers -- Indexes
African American newspapers -- Indiana
African American newspapers -- Michigan
African American newspapers -- Mississippi -- Bibliography -- Union lists
African American newspapers -- Mississippi -- Directories
African American newspapers -- Mississippi -- History

So we have maybe a hundred newspapers to wander through. And books on the history of those newspapers as well.

Go ahead and start with the online papers, but look at the papers from your own neighborhood. See if you can find your family and friends in there! You never know when you'll find a cousin, your grandmother, or the man you most admired in your life in a newspaper article!

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