“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by representations.” — Freedom’s Journal
Black Americans need to deal with the reality that racism remains a major obstacle to Black progress, as such the Black Press should be considered to be “an American institution.” In conjunction with the church, the Black Press is a pillar of Black American communities. Since 1827, the Black Press has been The Black Voice in America. Sadly too many millennials know the Black Press and the way that it has chronicled and commented upon events as they have occurred and affected African Americans.
First they were businessman pursuing profits, but from inception, the Black Press has been a change agent shining a light on the plight of Blacks and giving them the power to write and report their own narratives.
“Today the Black Press is more relevant than ever,” says Dorothy R. Leavell, chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a trade association of the more than 200 African-American-owned community newspapers from around the United States. The Black publishers say they comprise a combined readership of 15 million and are into the digital age with an electronic news service to provide real-time news and information to its national constituency and thus that the Black Press continues to fulfill the declaration: “We wish to plead our own cause.”
Since slavery, Black-owned papers have had a finger on the pulse of Blacks’ progress. Like so many of their American small-business counterparts, Black newspaper operations are largely family-owned, often in third or fourth generation of ownership. Today’s Black Press is appreciated as crucial to ethnic progress. One of the principles in urban commercial corridors, the Black Press are stakeholders where we live. Often property owners and employment sites, Black newspapers are still the mediums for dealing with Blacks’ political debate and and advocacy. To accrue more power, Blacks need come back to the people and medium that fought against segregation, demanded equal rights and helped elect politicians to office.
Time to revere the Black Press is a critical — but too often ignored — aspect of African-American history and culture. Black papers gained their prominence as the Great Migration pulled African Americans away from the rural South in the era of Jim Crow, the numbers of Black newspapers and periodicals exploded along with urban Black populations. Businesses for publishers millionaire like Robert Abbott and Robert Vann, since its founding the NNPA has consistently been the voice of Black communities.
Black Press publications deserve a look and opportunity as Black Americans’ choice sources for business, careers, technology and wealth-building information. It has been central to community formation, protest and advocacy, education and literacy, and economic self-sufficiency. Black newspapers are “where we are.” During the time of their existence, Black newspapers have been main tenants along MLK business corridors normally housed next to the funeral home, insurance agent and Black-owned entertainment venue that African Americans frequented before integration.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.