ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
As a comprehensive research resource that would include complete microfilm files of Black
newspapers, as well as the personal papers and records of Black editors, publishers and
journalists, the Black Press Archives was envisioned as a vital and constructive element of
the Research Center’s program to collect, preserve, and interpret Black history and culture.
Documenting the Black Press in America
By Thomas C. Battle, Ph.D.
The idea of establishing a Black Press Archives and Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers was conceived in 1965 by William O. Walker, Editor-Publisher of the Cleveland Call and Post. Under the leadership of Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, the National Newspaper Publishers Association [NNPA] endorsed a plan to develop an archives and gallery at a university where the assembled documentation on the Black press could be permanently preserved and made available to scholars, students and the public.
On July 12th, 1973, Dr. Goodlett, President of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, wrote President James E. Cheek to propose the initiation of a joint project to establish at Howard University an “Archives of the Black Press in America” and “a gallery honoring the famous and outstanding Black newspaper publishers, beginning with John Russwurm, publisher of Freedom’s Journal and founder of the Black Press.”
This idea was received enthusiastically by Dr. Cheek, and in 1973 he authorized the creation of a joint Howard University-NNPA project to create the archives and gallery as a unit of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center [MSRC]. Recognized as one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive repositories for the collection and preservation of materials documenting the history and culture of Black people in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and United States, the Research Center is an ideal location for the archives of the Black Press.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association appointed a committee on the Archives and Gallery, which was chaired until his death by Emory O. Jackson, Editor of The Birmingham World, He was succeeded by Mr. William O. Walker, who had served on the organizing committee along with Mrs. Marjorie B. Parham, Editor-Publisher of the Cincinnati Herald. Dr. Cheek designated the Director of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center as the University’s representative to meet with the NNPA’s Black Press Archives Committee.
The successful completion of negotiations to establish the Black Press Archives in the Moorland -Spingarn Research Center was a major accomplishment of the newly restructured Research Center’s first year. As a comprehensive research resource that would include complete microfilm files of Black newspapers, as well as the personal papers and records of Black editors, publishers and journalists, the Black Press Archives was envisioned as a vital and constructive element of the Research Center’s program to collect, preserve, and interpret Black history and culture. In order to maximize the value of the Black Press Archives, there was to be a comprehensive collection of Black newspapers, as well as an extensive collection of the private as well as business papers of publishers, reporters, and other persons involved in the production and development of Black newspapers.
Therefore, it would be quite appropriate for MSRC to develop an arrangement by which the largest possible number of persons could deposit their papers as part of the Archives. Other important materials for such a collection would be the photograph files of Black newspapers. These files would provide one of the most important means of documenting pictorially the Black experience in the United States.
On the basis of the favorable response of the NNPA Board, the following components of the documentation program were established:
1. Effective July 1, 1974 all NNPA members would send one gratis copy of each edition of their papers to the Black Press Archives.
2. Photographs from the photo-morgues of NNPA member papers for the period prior to 1965 would be sent to the Black Press Archives for cataloging and preservation. Members would, of course, be supplied with gratis copies of any photographs required for use after deposit, and any reproduction would carry the appropriate credit line.
3. Members would arrange for the deposit of personal and professional correspondence, other papers, awards, memorabilia and photographs in the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. All materials received would be professionally processed and preserved with the greatest care. Any restrictions on access to private or professional correspondence would become a part of the individual deed of gift and scrupulously respected by the Research Center staff. These elements of the documentation program were developed in recognition that for many years it had seemed desirable to establish a central depository for the records of the Black press and that much of the documentation of the history of the 2700 Black newspapers founded since Freedom’s Journal in 1827 has been irretrievably lost. The Black Press Archives documentation program was designed to prevent a continuation of this situation.
Another component of the program to document the history of the Black press is the collection of the office files, personal papers, photographs, tape recordings and memorabilia of outstanding journalists, cartoonists, editors, and publishers. These materials are deposited in the Research Center’s Manuscript Division, where they are processed and made available for research under conditions prescribed by their donors.
With the passage of time, this manuscript collection has become one of the nation’s most valuable resources for understanding a significant segment of American life that has been neglected. The first donors in this aspect of the program represented a distinguished cross-section of persons who have made outstanding contributions to black journalism. These donors included Mr. P.L. Prattis, former Executive Editor of the Pittsburgh Courier; Miss Ethel L. Payne, former Associate Editor of the Chicago Defender; Dr. Metz T.P. Lochard, former Associate Editor and Chief Editorial Writer of the Chicago Defender; Mr. George B. Murphy, Jr., National Representative of the Afro-American Newspapers; and Mrs. Alice A. Dunnigan, former Washington Bureau Chief of the Associated Negro Press. The Research Center also received as a gift an oral history collection, The Documentary Series on the Negro press from Dr. Lou Lu Tour of New York.
This aspect of the MSRC’s documentation project today also includes papers and other materials documenting the lives and careers of cartoonist/illustrator Clint Wilson, Sr.; educator Armistead Pride; columnists Kelly Miller, Benjamin Mays and Alfred (Charlie Cherokee) Smith; broadcaster Tomlinson Todd; media relations facilitators Lawrence Hill, Otto McClarrin and Dolphin Thompson; and the records of the Capital Press Club.
In addition, the MSRC’s holdings include subscriptions to some 400 newspapers, of which 300 are African American, and 18,900 reels of microfilm. Since the inception of the Archives, the MSRC’s Photoduplication Department has microfilmed 5 million frames on 7500 master reels and in addition another 3.7 million frames on 5700 master reels since the Black Press sesquicentennial celebration in 1977.
Unfortunately, at the onset, other aspects of the documentation program, were not as successful. Initially, only publisher Carlton Goodlett, W.O. Walker and John H. Murphy deposited their personal papers or other materials documenting the activities of their respective newspapers.
However, deposits increased, and the Black press in American remains an important voicean Africa centric voicefor our people. The founders of Freedom’s Journal asserted the need to “plead our own cause,” a need which remains as essential today as it was at any other time in our history. And if the history of a people who established the foundations of civilization can be forgotten or intentionally obscured and obliterated, must I remind you of the needour needto be especially vigilant towards those who would dismiss us. Enoch Waters”rights are best protected by those who suffer most by their abuse.”
We need the Black press to help us to protect those rights. And we need to document its history so that its seminal contributions to American life are not forgotten or obscured in an amnesia-prone future. The credo of the Black press, asserting its fear of no person, reminds me of a Ghanaian saying”Gye Nyame””except God, I fear none.” The Black press must remain fearless. It must remain a free fearless and unfettered voice of the people, our people, African people. Thus it has been since 1827, and thus it must remain as we await the new millennium and beyond. To do less is to fail our people. I am confident that the Black press will remain our fearless advocate, fearing none- “Gye Nyame”, except God.
Source: Howard University Archives
Thomas C. Battle is the former Director of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) at Howard University. During his 32- year career at MSRC, he helped build an outstanding library, museum, manuscript collection, and university archives. The MSRC is one of the worlds largest and most comprehensive repositories for the documentation of the history and culture of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and other parts of the world. As one of Howard Universitys major research facilities, the MSRC collects, preserves, and makes available for research a wide range of resources chronicling the Black experience. Its collections include more than 175,000 bound volumes and tens of thousands of journals, periodicals, and newspapers; more than 17,000 feet of manuscript and archival collections; nearly 1,000 audiotapes; hundreds of artifacts; and 100,000 prints, photographs, maps, and other graphic items. These extraordinary historical materials are a source of great pride to the Black community, and the MSRC is held in high esteem around the world.
Battle has written and published a number of articles during his career. However, more important are his initiatives to support scholarship and publishing. In 1983 Dr. Battle organized a symposium on Black contributions to the preservation of Black history that acknowledged activities dating back to 1827. The proceedings of this symposiumBlack Bibliophiles and Collectors: Preservers of Black Historywere the first of six titles in the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center Series published by Howard University Press.
Battle is an active member of numerous archives, library, history, and museum associations and works with many community groups. His outreach efforts have educated countless persons about the importance of preserving history and introduced them to archives as a profession. He is a long-time member of the Society of American Archivists and has served on numerous committees and task forces and most recently completed a term on its governing council. He works tirelessly to expand diversity, always recommending and encouraging the participation and inclusion of younger and lesser known archivists.
An alumnus of Howard University, Battle is affectionately known as Dr. B, Bat, and TCB (for taking care of business) His dedication, commitment, enthusiasm, generosity, skills, knowledge, leadership, and contributions exemplify what is best in the archival profession.Karen Jefferson, Atlanta University Center
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of Moorland-Spingarn and Howard University Libraries Scholar Noted for Raising the Profile of Harlems Schomburg Center
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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A Voice of the Black Press
Edited by John Edgar Tidwell
Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987) was a central figure in the black press, working as reporter and editor for the Atlanta World, the Associated Negro Press, the Chicago Star, and the Honolulu Record. Writings of Frank Marshall Davis presents a selection of Davis’s nonfiction, providing an unprecedented insight into one journalist’s ability to reset the terms of public conversation and frame the news to open up debate among African Americans and all Americans. During the middle of the twentieth century, Davis set forth a radical vision that challenged the status quo. His commentary on race relations, music, literature, and American culture was precise, impassioned, and engaged. At the height of World War II, Davis boldly questioned the nature of America’s potential postwar relations and what they meant for African Americans and the nation. His work challenged the usefulness of race as a social construct, and he eventually disavowed the idea of race altogether. Throughout his career, he championed the struggles of African Americans for equal rights and laboring people seeking fair wages and other benefits.
In his reviews on music, he argued that blues and jazz were responses to social conditions and served as weapons of racial integration. His book reviews complemented his radical vision by commenting on how literature reshapes one’s understanding of the world. Even his travel writings on Hawaii called for cultural pluralism and tolerance for racial and economic difference. Writings of Frank Marshall Davis reveals a writer in touch with the most salient issues defining his era and his desire to insert them into the public sphere. John Edgar Tidwell provides an introduction and contextual notes on each major subject area Davis explored.
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By Rodger Streitmatter
Little research exists on African-American women journalists, even in studies of the black press. To address this gap, Streitmatter presents eleven biographies of journalists from the early nineteenth century to the present.Journal of Women’s History
[Streitmatter] finds that their attraction to journalism cam from their desire to be advocates of racial reform, that they were courageous in the face of sexism and financial discrimination, and that they used education as their entry into journalism and subsequently received support from African-American male editors.Journal of Women’s History
An historical chronology of eleven interesting and determined black female journalists.Washington Times
Rodger Streitmatter is a journalist and cultural historian whose work explores how the media have helped to shape American culture. He is currently a professor in the School of Communication at American University and is the author of seven previous books.
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By Henry Lewis Suggs
P.B. Young, the son of a former slave, published the Norfolk Journal and Guide , a black weekly, for more than 50 years, until his death in 1962. From a circulation of a few hundred in 1909 to a circulation of 75,000 during the 1950s, the Guide became the largest press in the South. This book explores P.B. Young’s personal history and charts his positions on a variety of social issues.
Historians have largely neglected the Guide and its editor. Henry Lewis Suggs, mainly using Young’s personal papers (heretofore closed to scholars) and the files of the Guide, fills that historiographical void . . .The book will almost certainly remain the definitive study of P.B. Young.David B. Parker,
Another neglected figure in black history has been rescued from obscurity in this biography of Plummer Bernard Young . . .Suggs has thoroughly researched his subject.Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.
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A History of the Black Press By Armistead S. Pride and Clint C. Wilson II
In this work, Dr. Wilson chronicles the development of black newspapers in New York City and draws parallels to the development of presses in Washington, D.C., and in 46 of the 50 United States. He describes the involvement of the press with civil rights and the interaction of black and nonblack columnists who contributed to black- and white-owned newspapers. . . . Through reorganization and exhaustive research to ascertain source materials from among hundreds of original and photocopied documents, clippings, personal notations, and private correspondence in Dr. Pride’s files, Dr. Wilson completed this compelling and inspiring study of the black press from its inception in 1827 to 1997.
This is a major and noteworthy contribution to scholarship on the African American press. As Washington Post columnist Dorothy Gilliam concludes in the foreword, Pride and Wilsons comprehensive history is a lasting tribute to the men and women within the black press of both the past and the present and to those who will make it what it will be in the future.
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By Barbara Henritze
This book contains a complete checklist of African American newspapers identified in all major bibliographic sources–newspaper directories, union lists, finding aids, African American bibliographies, yearbooks, and specifically African American newspaper sources. In short, it is a comprehensive checklist of every newspaper that has served African Americans since 1827a total of 5,539 newspapers. For reference purposes the text is arranged in tabular format under the following headings: newspaper title, city and state of publication, frequency of publication, dates, and sources. Newspapers are listed by state and city, which are in alphabetical order, then, by city, in alphabetical order by title. The papers are again listed alphabetically in the index, this time in a single, comprehensive list which serves as the best fingertip reference to black newspapers in existence. This is a core book for any collection of African American reference materials.
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By Todd Vogel
In a segregated society in which minority writers and artists could find few ways to reach an audience, journalism gave them access to diverse U.S. communities. The original essays in this volume show how marginalized voices attempted to be heard in their day. The Black Press progresses chronologically from abolitionist newspapers to today’s Internet and reveals how the black press’s content and its very form changed with evolving historical conditions in America. The essays address the production, distribution, regulation, and reception of black journalism, illustrating a more textured public discourse, one that exchanges ideas not just within the black community, but also within the nation at large. The contributors demonstrate that African American journalists redefined class, restaged race and nationhood, and reset the terms of public conversation, providing a fuller understanding of the varied cultural battles fought throughout our country’s history. Dayton Library / Questia
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 8 June 2012