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African American Newspapers Forum

Re: A Higher Purpose For Newspaper Articles


I think your speculation about Knox using his barbershops as a "news network" is an excellent point; and, thank you for it because I had not considered that. Almost all the newspapers at the time, both black and white, had similar social columns, as without TV and radio, the newspapers were the easiest way to gain information about friends and family. I believe the Indianapolis Freeman and Recorder patterned their columns after the Chicago Defenders' social columns.

The column on Greenfield does appear to be slanted towards the more affluent blacks in the community. In comparing it to Lyles: Greenfield had a smaller community of blacks, was closer in proximity to the larger Indianapolis, the blacks showcased were in non-farming endeavors, and the person reporting on my family, was an actual member of both my family and the family who owned the Freeman. My family members in Greenfield essentially were big fish in a small pond.

On the other hand, the columns from Lyles, reflect a still agrarian community a good distance in southwest Indiana from Indianapolis, that was largely all black, and although, my grandmother was a direct descendant of two prominent black families, the Lyles and Cole families, she was just one of many relatives to the agents for the Recorder. She was essentially a small fish in a big pond, so there were fewer articles about her immediate family.

George Knox, the owner of the Freeman, wrote an autobiography, and he was born a slave to slaves. Although, he also owned the Indianapolis ABCs, the Negro baseball team, a chain of barbershops and the Freeman, he seemed to retain an "everyday Joe" temperament and I think the Freeman reflected that. The Recorder seems more aspirational (think Ebony magazine) and I found a lot of articles about my family that indicated they educated their children away from home, were heavily invested in musical pursuits (a cousin became a renowned Chicago jazz drummist and he and his mother, a gifted organist, arranged social musicals and the music for retail store openings), went to and gave a lot of parties, and had a telephone in their home in 1901. I have a feeling that many of those social columns may have enticed kids off the farm to the big city for a way of life they only read about in the newspapers - just as they brought Southerners to northern cities.

I don't know Stewart's background, but both my Greenfield and Lyles families lived free in Indiana for generations before the Civil War. Stewart may have been the same (interestingly, Stewart is a family surname line for my research) and it may explain the difference in the tenure of the Recorder and the Freeman newspapers. The power of newspapers!!

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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