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African American Newspapers Forum

Re: A Higher Purpose For Newspaper Articles

The key to successful genealogical research is a careful analysis of the evidence one has accumulated. Too often researchers do not do this and the answer they seek is right in front of them but they don’t see it and they are off overturning additional rocks looking for their answer.

Therefore I am inclined to think that when you say “that our research compels us to determine why these ancestors are in those newspapers”, that inquisitive question of why, and the analysis of those newspaper entries should both be a routine part of our research strategy. In doing so we may in the process uncover clues as to “What was their connection to the individuals supplying the news to the papers?”.

Much of the information gleaned from these black papers is from the voluminous social/community columns. And we can be ever so thankful for their existence for as I can be quoted as saying in my presentation on black newspapers, “they represent one of the few sources where the daily activities of black communities, both large and small are documented.” Many of the folks mentioned in the columns have no stature or status outside of the general area in which they reside and their only “connection” to the person providing the news for the paper is that the column submitter either saw something firsthand or the event was relayed to them. One thing I have noticed from reading countless columns, is that in some cases, the coverage is slanted where by the columnist tends to give a majority of the space to a set group of individuals, who I am sure are their family & close acquaintances. In some cases, unfortunately, they are all of the middle/upper middle class and little is reported aside from their activities. And, I have seen columns where the reporter seems to give an excessive amount of space to the activities of a particular church in the community.

In closing, I believe that the overall objective of Stewart, Knox, and other owners was the creation of a paper that would interest the widest possible audience and the social column was an excellent vehicle to suit this purpose. As can be seen from the research conducted by noted historian Emma Lou Thornbrough, black papers constantly advertised in their papers for local correspondents and many had stated goals of getting one for every community in a particular state or region. Although their efforts in most cases fell short, it is this effort that gives us this marvelous cache of community news to scour in search of our folks! [As an aside, Knox's connection with barbershops certainly enhanced his development of "news networks" since the shops were often one of the more popular central gathering spots.]

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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