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The American Negro's cultural heritage is one hundred per cent American, for the

rigorous life during the days of slavery wiped out all his background of African

culture. Under these circumstances, the American Negro cannot be anything but

loyal to the United States since that is the only place he can call his home.



The Negro Newspaper 1948

By Vishnu V. Oak


The true Negro newsman, and I am happy in my association with his breed, is possessed with high courage and higher zeal. In the fight to improve the conditions  of his people, he has learned that praise and plaudits are seldom given the "wailer, the crusader, or the reformer," and that criticism for his obvious shortcomings will always be abundant; but secure in the comfortable knowledge that he is fighting the good fight for the good cause, he is content.

He reaps a daily reward in the consideration of the unmistakable signs of progress about him: the increase in literacy, the increase in the Negro life span, the hard-won victories over tuberculosis in the slums, the increasing political consciousness among a people only recently enfranchised, and the slow but sure increase in civic responsibilities. He likes to believe that his stories, ofttimes poorly written and none too accurate, and his deathless editorials fabricated out of paper, ink, and devotion have contributed.

To him the bright horizon of full growth, full equality with all men, and full citizenship for America's fifteen million stepchildren is ever the challenge ahead. . . .

By and large, however, the Negro Newspaper, referred to hereafter as the Negro Press, has always stood as the champion of the people it served and has rendered unusually effective -and faithful service to the cause of America’s neglected and mistreated one-tenth. "The importance of the Negro press for the formation of Negro opinion, for the functioning of all other Negro institutions, for Negro leadership and concerted action generally, is enormous. “The Negro press is an educational agency and a power agency” (Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma, 1944).

The Negro Newspaper (Press) has now definitely passed its initial period of experiment, of evangelism, and of missionary zeal, and is approaching a professional standard which approximates and occasionally surpasses the best standards of many white country dailies or weeklies. The Negro Press, which is still ninety-eight per cent a weekly press, is now being financed by Negro capital; written, edited, and managed by Negro brains; set in type by Negro typesetters; made ready to run thru the press by Negro mechanics; and distributed by Negro salesmen. Some newspapers are well written and well edited, and perform their news and advertising functions serviceably.

A few also present a pleasing typographical appearance. The larger publications like the Pittsburgh Courier, the Afro-American, the Chicago Defender, and the Journal and Guide, whose combined ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) total of 750,000 a week in June, 1947, is rapidly approaching the million mark in 1948, are nationally circulating weeklies. . . . Amsterdam News and the People's Voice, both published in New York City, are papers which emphasize local news and perform the function of city newspapers as capably as many of the outstanding white dailies, covering, however, only news touching the Negro.

Contrary to what some persons like [Westbrook] Pegler and [Theodore G.] Bilbo have led the public to believe, the Negro Press and its five million readers are not un-American. In spite of its vehement though just attack on lynching and poll-tax, even while the Second World War was going on, it has championed wholeheartedly the cause of the allies. Time and again, the Pittsburgh Courier, the Afro-American, the Chicago Defender, the Journal and Guide, the People's Voice, the New York Amsterdam News, the New York Age, the Chicago Bee, the Kansas City Call, the Ohio State News, the Cleveland Call and Post, and the St. Louis Argus, to mention only a few, have written editorials pointing out to their readers that the ultimate salvation of the Negro lay in the allies winning the war.

While a German-American may look for a home in Germany or an Italian-American in Italy, the American Negro does not look for a home in Africa even though he was originally brought here from that continent against his will. Culturally, the American Negro is as different from the African Negro as any white man and his loyalty to the American Flag is as strong as that of the descendants of the pilgrim fathers. The American Negro's cultural heritage is one hundred per cent American, for the rigorous life during the days of slavery wiped out all his background of African culture. Under these circumstances, the American Negro cannot be anything but loyal to the United States since that is the only place he can call his home.2 Aside from a few uneducated and misguided persons who were found to have some sort of connection with a Japanese organization, Negroes have not been found guilty of sabotage, espionage, and other subversive activities in war times.

It is true that the Negro Press is becoming more and more militant in its demand for a real democracy at home, but this growing impatience is quite natural and very desirable. As a matter of fact, all of the non-white races in the world today are demanding greater economic and political freedom, and unless the American Negro is entirely unintelligent and unprogressive he is bound to demand his right to be a free citizen in the real sense of the word, especially when he has but recently fought "abroad for the cause of freedom.

If the People's Voice under the powerful pen of the Reverend A. Clayton Powell, Jr., congressman since 1945 and dynamic and dramatic leader of the Negro masses in Harlem, had been militant during the Second World War in putting the issues of the Negro to the forefront to such an extent that it had led some white persons to assert that it was an un-American paper, I wonder in what category would these same persons place the defiant Chicago Tribune during its trial in the summer of 1942 for having published Stanley Johnson's dispatch concerning the battle of Midway and thus exposing strictly military information. To climax it all, the Tribune held a gala banquet to celebrate its legal though not moral victory over the Justice Department of the United States at a time when we were busy fighting a war with Germany, Italy, and Japan.

This defiant and apparently unpatriotic attitude of the Tribune which makes both the so-called militant Negro and white papers appear pale; the daring refusal of several white companies in the South to accept war orders during the Second World War because they did not want to follow the Presidential order against racial discrimination in the use of labor; the support given to such refusals by governors of certain Southern states; the viciously organized opposition against anti-lynching and FEPC legislation of certain reactionary Northern Republicans and most Southern Democrats who are still dreaming of the long-vanished glories of plantation days; the dangerous assertions of several Southern white newspapermen and other influential white persons that, if winning the war meant greater freedom for the Negro, they would prefer to lose the war; and the revolting reactions of some Southern Democrats and even governors to the recent forthright pronouncements of President Truman on the civil rights of Negro Americans in this country reactions which make every believer in democracy hang his head down in shame these and other similar assertions and acts, and not the cry of the Negro for justice and fair-play, seem to be not only undemocratic and, therefore, un-American, but definitely fascist.

What the Negro Press is demanding is exactly what responsible leaders of the now-dead New Deal and all modern social thinkers interested in saving democracy have been asserting boldly, namely, that a new economic, social, and political order must come without delay, now that the war is over. By trying to meet the pressing needs of the masses before they reach the exploding point, these forward thinkers are helping to save capitalism from the resultant social and economic chaos of revolution and the tragic death of capitalism as a result of this revolution.

The Champion of the Negro Cause

The Negro Press arose out of the dire need for racial leadership, and hence, it is natural that it should be largely racial in its outlook. In fact, its success is due to its being racial, supplementing as it does the service rendered by the white press. In general, the Negro Press is interested in news that touches the Negro, and rarely, if ever, pays any attention to news that has no racial significance. The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, one of the biggest stories of the American press, was hardly noticed by the Negro Press until it was reported that a Negro had found the body of the Lindbergh baby. "Dizzy" Dean (white) was of no news value to the Negro Press until his team was playing against the Monarchs, a Negro team. Since the white press ignores the Negro almost completely, except to play him up as a criminal or a clown, the Negro Press is becoming more and more a necessity to its readers as the purveyor of news about its own group.  

When the world-famous singer Roland Hayes, for example, was beaten and put into jail in July, 1942, by the believers in white supremacy in Rome, Georgia, white newspapers did not give any prominence to this news, and most of them completely ignored it. Friends of Roland Hayes had to wait until the complete story broke in the Negro Press with strong editorials on the incident. While some white papers later gave publicity to this incident, which, in most cases, consisted merely in printing a United Press release in which Governor [Herman Eugene] Talmadge defended the beating of Roland Hayes on the ground that he had kicked a policeman, it was the Negro Press that came to Hayes' defense by pointing out the absurdity of the charge against this most peace loving and highly sensitive man who would never lift his finger against anyone, even under provocation!

Discussing this phase of the Negro Press, the Fortune magazine made the following interesting observations in a special feature article:

The pictures in Negro newspapers are of Negroes or of mixed Negro-white groups. The news is news of Jim Crow regulations . . . ; it is news of Negroes winning scholarships, of Negroes in battle, of Negroes denied commissions, of Negroes running for local office, of Negroes sitting on committees with white men, of white men speaking up for Negroes, of white men embarrassed because they have neglected Negroes. And, except when it is news thus angled, there is no news of national affairs, of the war, of Congress, of the President, of industry. The Negro press deals single-mindedly with the problems of being a Negro in the United States, the prospects, the troubles, the triumphs, and the despairs of all those for whom the fact of being a Negro outweighs, for a part of the time at least, all other concerns.3

The Negro Press is undoubtedly contributing a great deal to the preservation of American democracy by its virtuous fight in behalf of its people, is rendering invaluable service to the cause of justice and fair-play, and is capable of understanding and appreciating India's fight for freedom, Burma's utter apathy toward England's success during the last world war, and Africa's complete distrust of the white man! The Pittsburgh Courier with its "Double V" campaign during the Second World War made both colored and white readers realize that we had to win victory not only abroad but also at home.

The Afro-American with its fearless editorials coupled with its special editions on vital issues; the Chicago Defender with its new and comparatively progressive policy toward labor and its ability to plan and successfully execute campaigns as evidenced by its bold and frank stand on the fourth term for Roosevelt in 1944; the Journal and Guide with its non-sensational approach toward Negro news and opinion and its non-aggressive yet balanced leadership in the South; the People's Voice with its dynamic and aggressive though highly dramatic and sensational attacks on all questions affecting the Negro's welfare; the Cleveland Call and Post with its methods of keeping alive for a long period of time any cause it may have espoused; these, along with many other newspapers, have been serving the people of America in a commendable way. 

Widening Horizon

The advance of the Negro Press has been made in credulous aping of the white dailies. Negro newspapers are still startlingly similar to white papers in structure, duplicating their good and bad features alike. As yet, they do not seem to show any special evidence of a "distinctive personality" other than their almost one hundred per cent racial emphasis. This lack of distinctiveness may be due to the fact that Negro journalists have been so preoccupied with bringing their papers abreast of those of the whites that they have neglected to introduce new patterns into the business of collecting and editing news.4

How well they have succeeded in modernizing their papers will become evident from a study of the following indices of rapidly growing maturity: the organization of several press and syndicate services; the printing of national and local editions, and different editions for different states or regions; the emergent use of color presses by the more opulent weeklies (suspended during the Second World War); the appearance of strong newspaper affiliations; the growing patronage of white business enterprises as evidenced by the number of "ads" from this source; the creation of extensive promotional activities among both their colored carriers and the general public; and the increasing space that is allotted to foreign news that affects the fate of all the colored peoples of the world.

This last international aspect of the problem of the  "colored" races of the world, first introduced by Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois thru the Crisis magazine as early as the First World War, will now be found in all the better class weeklies. "The editor's horizon," observes Professor Detweiler, "is at least as wide as that of a small-town white editor and often wider. Negro writers are interested in South Africa, where there is a huge race problem; in Brazil, where the color line is indistinct; in Soviet Russia . . . ; in the Virgin Islands, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Liberia. From Spain, toward the end of 1937, Langston Hughes was writing articles for the Afro-American, which sent a man to Russia to interview Stalin, to Berlin for the Olympics, and to Geneva to witness the appearance of Haile Selassie before the League of Nations."5

The large number of Negro foreign correspondents in the Second World War is a further proof of the growing world-consciousness of the Negro Press. From the opening of the war to 1946, the Chicago Defender had five foreign correspondents: Deton J. Brooks, David Orro, George Padmore, Edward B. Toles, and Enoc P. Waters; the Journal and Guide had five: Henry Cole, Lemuel E. Graves, John "Rover" Jordan, P. Bernard Young, Jr., and Thomas W. Young; the Afro-American had eight: "Art" M. Carter, Herbert M. Frisby, Payton Grey, Max Johnson, Elizabeth M. Phillips (first Negro woman war correspondent in this war), Ollie Stewart, Vincent Tubbs, and Francis Yancy; the Pittsburgh Courier  had eight: Edward Baker, Haskell Cohen, Randy Dixon, Collins George, Oliver Harrington, Theodore A. Stanford, Edgar T. Rouzeau, and Billy Rowe; and the Houston Informer had one: Elgin Hychew.

In addition to these, the Associated Negro Press (ANP) had three full time foreign correspondents: Rudolph Dunbar, Frank D. Gordien, and George Coleman Moore, and six part time correspondents; the National Negro Publishers Association (NNPA) had three: Frank E. Bolden, Charles H. Loeb, and Fletcher P. Martin.

Time and again, the leading Negro newspapers denounced the Hitlerian tactics of Winston Churchill in his dealings with India and for his gall in imprisoning men like Gandhi and Nehru who were fighting for their country's freedom even as Churchill was fighting for his. But while Churchill was being hailed as a savior of democracy, Gandhi and Nehru were put into prison like common criminals, and the White Press did not seem concerned very much about it. The Negro Press, on the other hand, alert as it had become in recent years in matters affecting all colored races of the world, detected the hypocrisy and duplicity behind this international scene. "There is probably not a single issue of any one of the big weeklies which does not point out the failure of the British to give India independence, or contain editorial reflections to the effect that the defeat in Singapore and elsewhere was due to the Britishers' having maltreated and lost the confidence of the natives. China, moreover, cannot be expected to have too much trust in America which discriminates against all colored people.

New Deal's 'Roll Of Shame'

President Roosevelt is Commander-in-Chief of the U. S. armed forces. Under war-time exigencies, he has the extraordinary power to end segregation and discrimination in all branches of the armed services.

Below, The Pittsburgh Courier is publishing "a list of some of the Negro boys IN UNIFORM who have met death . . . NOT KILLED IN ACTION FOR THEIR COUNTRY, but MURDERED by their country. They paid the supreme sacrifice on the Altar of Dixie prejudice and our COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF has -not only said nothing. . HE HAS DONE NOTHING. . . . (Pittsburgh Courier, November 4, 1944, p. 4)

The Afro-American, another of the four big papers with the second largest circulation among Negro newspapers, and the   were also as malicious and vicious and illogical as the Pittsburgh Courier in their attacks on Roosevelt and his administration. Says another student, after reading the issues of the Afro-American during the 1944 presidential election:  

The Afro has used every trick and trade in journalism to discredit Roosevelt. . . . By mentioning the name of Bilbo and the possibility of his becoming president some day for as long as sixteen years or more if we now allowed Roosevelt to become president for the fourth term, the editor attempted to throw a scare into the minds of the people. . . . The Afro portrays the Republican party as having views synonymous with those of the late Wendell L. Wilkie. Any intelligent man knows that this is not so.19

The long quotations above, few of the many that were written in the same strain, are given here as clear signs of hope in our youth of today signs which indicate that the youth is doing its own thinking and that neither the Courier nor the Afro-American nor the Amsterdam News, all of which were vilifying Roosevelt, seem to have been able to influence public opinion very much in certain matters, in spite of their large circulation. The reader should not get the impression that these three were the only papers which went all-out anti-Roosevelt in this Republican campaign against the New Deal. The general line-up of some of the important Negro newspapers printed near and above the Mason-Dixon line, either as pro-Roosevelt or anti-Roosevelt papers during the 1944 presidential election, is given below.

The word anti-Roosevelt rather than pro-Dewey is used here advisedly. A careful study of the Republican  presidential campaign indicated that most of its effort was spent in discrediting and denouncing Roosevelt and the New Deal instead of building up Dewey and the millennium he was expected to bring in our domestic economy. Commenting on this Quislingism, the Negro's greatest internal enemy, Conrad 20 makes the following pertinent observations:

It is the Democratic and Republican Parties which bear "the first responsibility for such ‘deals'. They deduce it is cheaper to buy the Negro press than to pass progressive minority legislation. Also, when they pay off the Negro papers they feel that their obligation is largely taken care of and they don't have to worry; with the Negro publishers and chief editors involved in guilt the major parties can ignore much of the year-round pressure which the Negro press exerts. What this process amounts to, finally, is another form of supremacist control of the Negro group (Conrad, Jim Crow America, New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947, p. 79.)

Further evidence of how well Negro newspapers are copying white ones in the suppression of ideas contrary to their own, real or alleged, and how these champions of freedom often are ready to destroy free thought is seen in the following actions of some newspapers during the 1944 Presidential election as reported by the Negro magazine, Headlines, later known as Headlines and Pictures, and finally ceasing publication in 1946.

Several nationally known Negro columnists broke with their publishers over their political differences. Erudite Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois resigned from the New York Amsterdam Star News [New York Amsterdam News] which paced all Negro papers in support of Dewey and Bricker. Horace Clayton of Chicago found his copy omitted in the Pittsburgh Courier which backed the Republicans. Roy Wilkins continued to receive his check but his copy did not appear in the Amsterdam Star News. . . .

White House Correspondent Harry McAlpin was censured by Republican publishers who subscribe to the NNPA news service [National Negro Publishers Association] for giving too much copy about President Roosevelt. Harry replied that he was assigned to cover the White House and until Dewey got there it would be reasonable to expect that most of the copy would center around President Roosevelt, the present occupant.


1 Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro problem and modern democracy, Harper and Brothers Publishers. 1944, Volume 2, p. 923.

2 V. V. Oak, "What of the Negro Press?" Saturday Review of Literature, 26: 45-46 ft, March 6, 1943.

3 Fortune Press Analysis: Negroes, Fortune, May, 1945, pp. 233 235-

4John Syrjamaki, "The Negro Press in 1938," Sociology and Social Research, 24: i, September-October, 1939, p. 44.

5 Frederick G. Detweiler, "The Negro Press Today," American Journal of Sociology, 44: 3, November 1938, p. 398.

6 Myrdal, op. cit, 9 Volume 2, p. 915.

19 Walter Crider in a term paper on "A sociological study of  the Afro-American published during the last six weeks of the 1944  presidential campaign," written as a partial requirement in the  course on "General Sociology" given by the author at Wilberforce  University in 1944-1945.

Source: archive

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Robert Sengstacke Abbott (see photo top left)—November 28, 1868 - February 22, 1940The editor and publisher Robert S. Abbott was born in the town of Frederica on Saint Simon's Island, Georgia, to former slaves Thomas and Flora (Butler) Abbott. He developed an interest in African-American rights at a young age, and after learning the trade of printer at the Hampton Institute between 1892 and 1896 earned an LL.B. from Chicago's Kent College of Law in 1898. Abbott practiced law for a few years but soon gave up the profession, for reasons that are unclear, and began a career in journalism.

On May 6, 1905, he founded the Chicago Defender, a weekly newspaper that, over the next three and a half decades, evolved into the most widely circulated African-American weekly ever published.

As its title suggests, the paper was conceived as a weapon against all manifestations of racism, including segregation, discrimination, and disfranchisement. The Defender gave voice to a black point of view at a time when white newspapers and other sources would not, and Abbott was responsible for setting its provocative, aggressive tone. Among the paper's most controversial positions were its opposition to the formation of a segregated Colored Officers Training Camp in Fort Des Moines, Iowa, in 1917; its condemnation in 1919 of Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA); and its efforts to assist in the defeat of U.S. Supreme Court nominee John J. Parker in 1930. The Defender frequently reported on violence against blacks, police brutality, and the struggles of black workers, and the paper received national attention in 1915 for its antilynching slogan, "If you must die, take at least one with you."

In addition to exerting community leadership through the newspaper, Abbott was active in numerous civic and art organizations in Chicago. He was a member of the Chicago Commission of Race Relations, which in 1922 published the well-known study The Negro in Chicago. In 1932 Abbott contracted tuberculosis; he died in Chicago of Bright's disease on February 29, 1940. His newspaper continues to be published. Its archives, in addition to housing complete files of the Defender, contain the Robert S. Abbott Papers.encyclopedia

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People's Voice was a New York City-based, leftist African American newspaper founded in 1942 by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1908-1972), a charismatic minister and politician. This paper was designed for a progressive African American audience, and it educated and enlightened readers on everything from local gatherings and events to U.S. civil rights issues to the political and economic struggles of the peoples of Africa. Reporters and writers for the papers included influential African Americans such as Powell himself, Powell’s sister-in-law and actress Fredi Washington, and journalist Marvel Cooke.

During the 1930s, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. actively participated in New York City’s civil rights struggles. He organized mass gatherings to protest restaurants, stores, and transportation and utility companies that refused to hire or promote African American employees. Some of the organizations he protested included Harlem General Hospital, Consolidated Edison, New York Bell Telephone, and the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

As his popularity and militancy grew, Powell wished to reach a larger audience with his words. In the wake of the United States’ entry into World War II, Powell started People's Voice. He wanted to separate his paper from sensationalist tabloids such as the Amsterdam News and present relevant and educational information for the  democratically minded African American reader. But it became evident to his employees, and perhaps even to readers, that Powell used People's Voice as his own platform. “It was quite obvious he was using the paper for his own purposes,” noted one of his former employees. “But nobody minded it. That’s what the paper was for.”

In addition to Powell’s writings, People's Voice covered a variety of subjects. Entertainment editor Fredi Washington presented local events and introduced readers to new entertainers, such as actor Jerry Scott and singer Josh White. Other People's Voice reporters gathered materials from such groups as the Council on African Affairs (CAA) and the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). CAA was founded in New York City in the 1930s. Its primary purpose was to enlighten the American public about segregation and apartheid in South Africa.

UNIA-ACL was formed by Black nationalist Marcus Garvey in the mid-1910s as a self-help and unifying agent for people of African descent. After Powell left People's Voice for Congress in 1944, the paper was led by Denton J. Brooks Jr., formerly of Chicago’s Defender, and Max Yergan, who once headed the Council on African Affairs. Shortly before its demise, new publishers of People's Voice sought and gained support from Benjamin J. Davis Jr., a communist party leader, and the paper was accused of being subversive. In 1947, the paper faced financial and personnel problems. People's Voice ended publication in 1948.—hsp findingaid

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The act of writing emerged as a means to respond to the challenges of American democracy. By the time Wright composed Native Son, questions of national identity and patriotism overlapped with questions of racial identity. His construct of a transcultural confrontation was part of a larger political battle fought out predominantly in the (black) press. When Germany began waging war in Europe, the American "double V" media campaign installed an image of "Nazi Germany" which was designed to bring about reforms in the African American struggle for civil rights and recognition.

Edgar T. Rouzeau, the first black journalist accredited to report from the front lines, explained in the black newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier, that African Americans found themselves engaging in two wars. The first war in Germany had to be won with destructive weapons of science. The other, he explained, was located within the American homeland. This second war "must be fought with the pen," Rouzeau argued. "Even in a democracy, freedom is not a bequest but a fruit of conquest. Ignorance brought us enslavement, both physical and mental" (Rouzeau: 2000, 316-7). Wright also sensed that both wars were inextricably intertwined. Native Son translates the "double V" campaign to the fictional fight of Bigger in Dixie and the Midwest.The Free Library

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The black press: setting the political agenda during World War II

 By Charles G. Spellman

Credo for the Negro Press

I Shall Be A Crusader...

I Shall Be An Advocate...

I Shall Be A Herald...

I Shall Be A Mirror And A Record...

I Shall Have Integrity...

I Shall be a crusader and an advocate, a mirror and a record, a herald and a spotlight, and I Shall not falter.

So help me God.

The Credo, written by Journal and Guide editor P. Bernard Young, Jr. represents a declaration to provide truth, honesty, and service to the black community. When the Credo was written, the black press was the sole "Voice of the Negro." As a crusader, the black press fought vigorously for Negro rights. As an advocate, the black press fought vigorously to ban "Jim Crow" laws which legally sanctioned segregation. As a herald, the black press was the bearer of both good and bad news, always heralding those causes that others would suppress out of bias or perceived lack of interest.

The black press gained its respectful reputation for being the "Voice of the Negro" in the early days of segregation and unconscionable discrimination. African Americans were often negatively depicted in the white media. The negative images were reflective of the perceptions held by many whites, resulting in the development of the advocacy movement by the black press. . . .

When the war [World War II] began, the news and information needs of the black community increased. The absence of news about African Americans in the segregated white media inspired additional coverage by the black press. As the only means of constant mass communication information particularly relevant to the African American, the black press assumed the awesome responsibility of relating the activities of the war to its readership. As reporting increased, so did newspaper circulation. Since the primary news of interest to African Americans appeared in the black press, it reached its peak circulation during the war years. The Pittsburgh Courier had a circulation of 350,000; the Chicago Defender, 230,000; the Baltimore Afro-American, 170,000 and the Norfolk Journal and Guide, 100,000.

The black press enhanced the political awareness of its readership during World War II while mobilizing black public opinion. As America went to war to fight against Nazism and Fascism abroad, the black press formulated a political agenda at home. Theoretically, "the [black] press did not tell its readership what to think; it told its readership what to think about."

The black press reported vital information that increased awareness about war activities and black participation in the armed services. As significant political information about the state of black affairs in the Armed Services was gathered and reported in the black press, black opinion leaders emerged. Ministers, politicians and community leaders were responsible conduits for spreading the word about the war. Consequently, government, political, social, and wartime issues were covered with great care. Important issues concerning the acceptance of African Americans in the armed forces, the types of jobs African Americans would have in the armed forces, the treatment of African Americans in the Armed forces, and whether or not African Americans would be allowed the "right to fight" for their country were among the most important issues covered.

What emerges from the analysis of news coverage is a composite picture of a black press that generally supported the involvement and participation of African Americans in the war effort. For example, the Afro-American Newspaper, based in Baltimore, Maryland, led the way [We Are For War," Editorial, September 16, 1939—questia

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Afro-American Black History Archives

Ollie Stewart  / Max Johnson / Vincent Tubbs / Herbert M. Frisby /Elizabeth M. Phillips

Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars

Hansberry Decision Opens 500 New Homes to Race (Enoc P. Waters)

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Fletcher P. Martin, the first African American to receive a Nieman Fellowship, died from complications of diabetes on November 27, 2005. He was 89 years old. A native of McMinnville, Tennessee, Martin graduated from Louisville Municipal College in 1938 and quickly became city, editor of the Louisville Leader, a weekly with 20 employees and 22,000-circulation that covered the African-American community.

In 1942, he joined the Louisville Defender as a feature writer and continued to cover African-Americans issues. He spent 22 months in the South Pacific during World War II, earning the titles of first accredited war correspondent from Louisville and first . . .—highbeam

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Harry S. McAlpin was the first African-American reporter credentialed to the White House, where he covered Presidents Roosevelt and Truman for 51 black newspapers. He was also a Navy war correspondent and spokesman for the Department of Agriculture. Later McAlpin practiced law in Louisville, Ky.This I Believe

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The Associated Negro Press, a national and international news agency, was established in Chicago in 1919 by Claude Barnett. A graduate of Tuskegee Institute, Barnett was deeply influenced by the self-help/service-to-the-race philosophy of Tuskegee's founder, Booker T. Washington, and served on the governing boards of such organizations as Supreme Liberty Life Insurance, the American Negro Exposition in Chicago of 1940, and Tuskegee.

With correspondents and stringers in all major centers of black population, ANP provided its member papers—the vast majority of black newspapers—with a twice-weekly packet of general and feature news that gave African American newspapers a critical, comprehensive coverage of personalities, events, and institutions relevant to the lives of black Americans.

After 1945, ANP established a significant presence in Africa. By the late 1950s some 75 African papers subscribed to the service's weekly news packets in French as well as English.

Beset by climbing debts and Barnett's failing health, ANP ceased operation in midsummer 1964. His Associated Negro Press provided a vital service to one of black America's most important institutions during an era when African American newspapers realized record circulations, profits, and influence.—encyclopedia

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The Afro-American Newspaper Goes to War—The Baltimore-based newspaper The Afro-American has been in existence since 1892 under the proprietorship of the Murphy family, and by the 1940’s had forged a place at the forefront of African-American journalism. The newspaper is still in business today and is online at Founded by John Murphy, a former slave, the Afro-American has grown from a church weekly to one of the nations leading black newspapers. The newspaper has used it’s column inches to campaign for the civil rights of African-Americans throughout the 20th century, from opposing the persistence of racist “Jim Crow” laws in the South to defending eminent figures such as W.E. DuBois and Paul Robeson during the McCarthy-era anti-communism of the 1950’s.[1] During World War 2, when the U.S. military was still segregated along racial lines The Afro-American sent correspondents to cover the fighting alongside the various black American units that served in both the European and Pacific theatres.

These men and one woman were relaying to an audience of Maryland and Washington D.C. African Americans the roles fulfilled by black American troops, fighting in a segregated military abroad. The primary impact of black and white Americans serving together was to be felt socially in the post-war years. The Civil Rights movement that gained momentum in the 1950’s owed much to the fact that many people engaged in war work during the 1940’s, who in peacetime would never interact with one another on grounds of race, were challenged by their shared wartime experiences.—123helpme

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"This Is Our War:" Ollie Stewart at Normandy

By Todd Steven Burroughs


Among those Negro newspapers covering World War II with its own personnel was The Afro-American. Its overseas correspondents included Max Johnson, Vincent Tubbs, Art Carter, Elizabeth M. Phillips, Herbert M. Frisby and Ollie Stewart. Below is an excerpt of one of Stewart's articles, under the subhead "Normandy Beachhead," written after the 1944 D-Day invasion of the French beaches of Normandy by the Allies. The excerpt is taken from "This Is Our War," a collection of AFRO World War II articles the company self-published in 1945:

Stories of heroic deeds by Colored troops have come to me from every angle since my arrival on a Normandy beachhead exactly one month after departure from the U.S.A. Leaving from England, Colored soldiers loaded us on a boat, other accompanied us over, and still others unloaded us and much equipment on the beach they helped win from the enemy during the first few days of the invasion.

I am writing this beneath an apple tree by the roadside, with fat cattle grazing nearby, unmindful of the trucks rushing to the front with men and supplies, of the incessant pounding of artillery not far up the road. All last night, guns shook the ground on which I slept. Our Long Toms slugged it out with German 88's in a duel that has no end.

I am staying with a quartermaster outfit whose medical officer is Capt. Charles I. West of Washington, brother of Maj. John B. West. In the next tent is Warrant Officer Vincent Piedra of New York. The outfit already has five purple hearts for wounds resulting from enemy action, awarded to Staff Sergeant Leo Chenault, Indianapolis; Pfc. Clordie Caldwell, Kings Creek, N.C.; Pfc. Wilfert Fox, Jonesboro, N.C.; Pfc. Arlander Barker, Chicago, and Pfc. Austin Anderson, Wilmington, Del.

Another unit has among its personnel Cpl. John Hawkins of Pine Bluff, Ark., who shot down a German plane on D-Day while landing under fire with a trucking company. Hawkins used a 50-calibre machine gun mounted on the truck to down the raider, which was attempting to strafe a troop concentration. The Nazi pilot bailed out and was later captured.

Pvt. George McClain, 2263 E. 95th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, helped captures a German on D-Day soon after landing. The same day he went to the front before he knew itdriving a load of infantrymen up the road into a town still held by the Germans, but he made a quick turn and fled under fire by both sides. Everywhere I go are tales of our lads who waded ashore in water up to their necks, with their trucks waterproofed, to take part in the assault that forced Jerry [ apparently Allied slang for the German soldier] from his strong points.

Many are still saying, "I don't know how we did it, after seeing how Jerry was dug in." All along the beach were concrete pillboxes, barbed wire and gun emplacements —Downtown LA Life

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Ollie Stewart, the Paris-based foreign correspondent for the Afro-American newspaper from 1949 to 1977. Articles and lively columns this expat wrote provided his and foreigners’ views about events that were shaping America. He continually addressed race, U.S. foreign policy, politics and the achievements and activities blacks abroad, thereby providing information that was not in the mainstream media and filling an important void press and American history.—aejmc

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Covering a Two-Front War
African-American Correspondents during World War II

(Elliot Parker)

"I shall be a crusader and an advocate, a mirror and a record, a herald and a spotlight, and I shall not falter" (P. Bernard Young, Jr., "Credo For The Negro Press," Journal and Guide, Special Section, 22 July 1944). The Norfolk Journal and Guide's editor, P. Bernard Young, Jr., published this "Credo For The Negro Press" in his column on July 22, 1944. It captured both the spirit of the African-American press in general and a significant—yet little known—dimension of foreign correspondence. On that July day, World War II was at its height. The Journal and Guide reporters were giving readers "exclusive stories from a war front" that filled a gap in establishment reporting "(War Correspondent Arrives Overseas," Journal and Guide, 8 May 1943, 1).

American news media put 1,646 accredited reporters into the field during World War II, more than any other nation. Their coverage was notable for the level of professionalism and its impact back home, particularly as a result of the pioneering use of radio. The reporting of great correspondents from this period, many of them women, has been collected into lengthy anthologies, analyzed in written histories and television documentaries, and memorialized in a human-interest writing award in the name of Ernie Pyle, who lost his life in a Pacific battlefield.

While histories and anthologies of war coverage have piled up, so has scholarship on the African-American press. Books, articles, and dissertations have discussed the role of African-American journalism throughout the sweep of American history. Considerable attention has been given to the individual men and women who owned, wrote for, and edited African-American publications.

And yet, for all this activity, with the exception of a thirty-year-old descriptive overview  it is difficult to find more than cursory reference to African-American war correspondents in either genre of history—that of foreign correspondence or that of the African-American press {John D. Stevens, "From the Back of the Foxhole: Black Correspondents in World War I," Journalism Monograph, 1973). This is so even in studies devoted to African-American journalism during the period of World War II. As a result, a significant group of African-American menand one womanremains invisible in the history of both the mainstream and African-American press.

Twenty-seven African-American war correspondents worked, often under fire, in all theatres of World War II. This diverse group included notable reporters, columnists, and even an owner's son, among them Edgar Rouzeau, David Ortiz, Scoop Jones, Fletcher Martin, Frank Bolden, Thomas W. Young, Lem Graves Jr., and John "Rover" Jordan. Papers for which they worked included the Pittsburgh Courier, the Chicago Defender, the Afro-American, and the Norfolk Journal and Guide. The white press even ran some of their stories.list.msu

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.

She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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American Diary

A Personal History of the Black Press

By Enoch P. Waters

 Enoch P. Waters, a former editor of  The Chicago Defender who was a news correspondent for more than 40 years, died Friday. Mr. Waters, who was 77 years old, died just a few days after publication of his first book, American Diary, in which he described his experience as a pioneering black journalist.

Mr. Waters, a native of Philadelphia, worked for The Chicago Defender, one of the nation's largest black daily newspapers, for 23 years. He rose to the position of executive editor before he left in 1957 to become editor of The Associated Negro Press, a wire service that served about 150 black weekly newspapers. He is survived by his wife, Regina.nytimes

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The Black Press: New Literary and Historical Essays

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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The African American Press

With Special References to Four Newspapers, 1827-1965

By Charles A. Simmons

Of the 4,000 or so black-owned newspapers that Simmons informs us have existed in American history, he selects four well-known publications for detailed analysis. They are the Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, Oklahoma City Black Dispatch, and Jackson (Mississippi) Advocate. Following a summary of the black press in the abolition and Reconstruction eras, the author jumps into the four papers' editorial philosophies in the 1910s and 1920s, the start of the great northward migration, instigated, some say, by the Defender. Throughout the history of black journalism, argues Simmons, the large question was what balance should be struck between militancy and accommodation, and what balance between sensationalism and straight news. During World War II, the uncompromising Courier became the top-circulating newspaper. Simmons concludes with the four papers' reporting of the civil rights movement, in which the Advocate comes off poorly, having possibly been bribed into advocacy for the segregationist status quo. A pricey book, but one covering an important aspect of black history.Booklist

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Forum for Protest

The Black Press during World War II

By Lee Finkle

Finkle views this era of the black press as one of transition. The old guard, which called on blacks to accept the status quo in hopes of a better tomorrow, was passing. A more militant generation, raised on the papers of the era, was coming to the fore. . . . In his estimation, the papers were vehicles to retard, not advance, the black cause. . . . Professor Finkle has written an interesting volume that discusses the reactions of the black press during the Second World War. His style lends itself to quick reading, and the book would prove useful to both graduate and undergraduate students of history. Although Finkle's tale is an intriguing one, there are some problems with the work. As reviewer Alan Osur points out, the book was written in the 1970s, and Professor Finkle might have been judging the war from the so-called New Left perspective. So, while the work of the black press might have seemed quite conservative to him, from the perspective of the FDR administration, their writings probably seemed quite radical indeed.hnm.gmu

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A Question of Sedition: The Federal Government's

Investigation of the Black Press during World War II

By Patrick Washburn

A Question of Sedition tells the story of an event that almost happened, didn't, and why it never occurred. That event was the attempt by the Roosevelt Administration to use its special wartime sedition powers to suppress publication of the major black newspapers during World War II. Historians have long believed that the massive press suppressions of 1917-1921 did not recur during World War II simply because of a relative absence of dissent. Many have also believed that Franklin Roosevelt, who generally enjoyed good relations with the press, would not have been a supporter of censorship. This book shows that in fact an intense battle raged within the highest levels of Roosevelt's government over censorship of the black press. On the side of suppressing, or at least silencing, the black press was the powerful team of Franklin Roosevelt and J. Edgar Hoover; working virtually alone on the other side was Attorney General Francis Biddle. Drawing on interviews and thousands of pages of government documents, many obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and declassified for the first time, Washburn tells the full story of the conflict, setting the record straight on this important period in the country's libertarian history.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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