The Black Press of America Celebrates 195 Years of Pleading the Cause of African Descendants Everywhere

The Black Press of America Celebrates 195 Years of Pleading the Cause of African Descendants Everywhere

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

On March 16, 1827, Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm founded the first Black-owned newspaper in the U.S. They did so because there were no Black voices in the debate over the abolition of slavery. In their first editorial, Cornish and Russwurm wrote: “in short, whatever concerns us as a people, will ever find a ready admission into the Freedom’s Journal.”

“One hundred and ninety-five years later, the mission of the Black Press has not changed,” Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes wrote in an editorial. “No matter whether Black Press journalists are invited to a seat at ‘their’ table, the voices of those the Black Press represents will always have a seat at ours,” Rolark Barnes wrote.

From Freedom’s Journal to the North Star to John Abbott’s Chicago Defender, African American-owned newspapers have sparked fires for truth and equality that have burned with the passion of fighting for freedom throughout history.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022, marked the 195th anniversary of the Black Press of America, whose global impact remains undeniable. It all began with Freedom’s Journal. On March 16, 1827, they announced its presence with a front page that contained these words:

“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”

The 4-page edition included stories about the struggle to end the horrors of slavery, lynching, and social injustice. It also informed the African American community of international news of particular interest like Haiti and Sierra Leone events. Freedom’s Journal featured African American men and women biographies, schools, jobs, and housing opportunities.

For nearly two centuries, the 230 African American-owned newspapers and media companies, represented by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), have proudly carried that legacy.

The bond between Black America and the Black Press remains strong. “Relationships, which have been the cornerstone of the Black community and the Black Press for 195 years, have always been its messenger in cementing that bond,” remarked Westside Gazette Publisher Bobby Henry.

Dr. Toni Draper, the publisher of the 130-year-old AFRO in Baltimore and Washington, also noted the enduring value of the Black Press. “The contribution of the Black Press is invaluable. If not for the Black Press, there would be a lot of things we would not have documented in terms of the African American experience,” Dr. Draper said.

“The Black Press was founded in 1827, and African Americans were not in any of the pages of the white-owned press unless there was an advertisement of our sale, of our resale, or us having run away from slave owners or plantations, Dr. Draper continued:

“The Black Press is one of the only places where you can find news and information and commentary about, by, and for African Americans across the spectrum. You don’t have to do anything wrong to make the pages of the Black Press; you don’t have to do anything famous. The Black Press covers the totality of the Black experience in the United States and beyond.”

The anniversary of the Black Press is a reminder of the contributions that remain indelibly associated with the fearlessness, determination, and success of the Black Press.

Those contributions include the works of Frederick Douglass, WEB DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, and former NNPA Chairman Dr. Carlton Goodlett.

Douglass, who helped enslaved people escape to the North while working with the Underground Railroad, established the abolitionist paper, The North Star, in Rochester, New York. He developed it into the most influential Black antislavery newspaper published during the Antebellum era.

The North Star denounced slavery and fought for the emancipation of women and other oppressed groups with a motto of “Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color; God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.”

Today, the Black Press continues to reach across the ocean where possible to forge coalitions with the growing number of websites and special publications that cover Africa daily from on the continent.

“The spirit of Black journalism, which Russwurm and Cornish inspired, found its way to Houston 128 years later through a vision given to a local Black businessman to birth a newspaper that positively reflected the Black community, while also reporting the hard truths happening in our communities on the local, state, and national level,” Houston Forward Times Associate Editor Jeffrey Boney declared.

The evolution of the Black Press, the oldest Black business in America, had proprietors take on issues of chattel slavery in the 19th century, Jim Crow segregation and lynching, the great northern migration, the Civil Rights Movement, the transformation from the printing press to the digital age and computerized communication.

With the Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling that said no Black man has any rights that a white man must honor, there came a flood of Black publications to advocate for Black rights and protest the wrongs done to Blacks.

Today, the Black Press continues to tackle domestic and global issues, including the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on all citizens – particularly African Americans.

“This is an important story about the history of the Black Press of America that has consistently been the freedom fighting voice of African people in America and throughout the world for 195 years without waiver or distortion of the truth,” stated NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

“Today, in 2022, the Black Press remains the vital source of news and information for 50 million African Americans,” he added.

Chavis continued:

“On this momentous anniversary, the NNPA salutes all the African American-owned newspapers and media companies that are affiliated with the NNPA’s expanding network of over 230 media properties and channels.

October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit www.edwardsforhouston.com

As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.

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