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African American Newspapers Forum

The African American Press Collection

The African American Press Collection
1830-present

Tim, what is the availability of this collection?

The title list for this collection was developed by an Advisory Board composed of key scholars. The collection includes 25 titles, the oldest of which are Radical Abolitionist (1855 – 1858) and Principia (1859 – 1864).

This eclectic collection offers a rich store of information on African-American life encompassing issues such as history, social commentary, political advocacy, religion, education, literature and the arts among others. Black periodicals reflect the myriad of voices and perspectives of a people whose social history in America has been marked by the experiences of slavery, disfranchisement and achievement.

Although many people are aware of the significance and popularity of Ebony magazine and may know of its founder, John H. Johnson, few know that Johnson’s first successful publishing venture was Negro Digest. In 1942 Johnson got the idea that the assorted tidbits of information on Black people could be marketed and sold in the manner of the popular mainstream magazine, Reader’s Digest. Thus, Negro Digest was born with the assistance of a $500 loan secured by his mother’s furniture as collateral. In 1970 the title was changed to Black World. Johnson’s second magazine, the aforementioned Ebony, debuted with the same size, look and feel of Life except African- American personalities, lifestyles and perspectives were the featured components. Ebony, began in 1945, just three years after he launched Negro Digest. This collection also contains a major Ebony competitor, Sepia, that ran from 1952 to 1982.

A wealth of material specifically related to Black American history can be found in the Negro History Bulletin, founded in 1937 and published by the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. In the areas of African-American literature, social commentary and political advocacy, this collection offers several important periodicals spanning much of the 20th century. Included among these are Crisis, Opportunity, and Freedomways.

Crisis is the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was founded in 1910. Its founding editor was W.E.B. Du Bois. Perhaps with the exception of the NAACP, the National Urban League has been the most influential national organization championing the causes of Black America. Opportunity was the Urban League’s official publication and was contemporaneous with the NAACP’s Crisis from its founding in 1923 until its demise in 1949. Opportunity became a forum for the writings of Harlem Renaissance figures such as Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Angelena Weld Grimke and Gwendolyn Bennett. James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, both contributors to Crisis, also saw their work published in Opportunity. Freedomways was a quarterly literary and social commentary magazine focusing on civil rights issues and pan-Africanism. It began in 1961 and continued until 1985.

Those who consult this collection primarily for sources in African-American literature and the arts will also find Phylon Quarterly, founded by W.E.B. DuBois and continued by Atlanta University, of interest. Other titles include Black American Literature Forum; Black Theater; and The Black Perspective in Music. The scholarly professional publications represented in the collection include some of the most important journals: Journal of Negro Education, Journal of Negro History and the Journal of the National Medical Association.

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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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