Freedom’s Journal was the first Black newspaper that was created in 1827 by several free Black men in New York City and was edited by Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm. The paper was published “to counter racist commentary published in the mainstream press,” according to PBS. The newspaper was a four-page, four column standard that was published weekly.
The paper consisted of editorials, events, anecdotes, and addressed current issues like slavery, colonization, birth, and death announcements, and so much more. Freedom’s Journal was a voice for the Black community and the publication was not afraid to speak the truth. It is newspapers like Freedom’s Journal that have set the foundation for other newspapers to continue the work that the founding group of men intended to do.
One newspaper that picked up that challenge is the African American News and Issues Newspaper (Afram News). Since 1996, Afram News has been educating the Black communities about historical and current realities affecting our communities. Roy Douglas Malonson, one of the publishers discussed how the Black press has evolved. He stated, “There’s a lot of Black papers in Houston, and when integration came in, they quit being Black. They got away from the mission and their purpose, and that’s why we started it. We started it to be the peoples’ paper and the peoples’ voice and started documenting history, because every time someone died, our history died with it.” He also challenges all Black newspapers to be Black and get back to that mission.
Mr. Malonson also believes in the importance of preserving our history and teaching younger generations about our history so they can continue what our ancestors fought for us. In a world that is trying to erase history, the Malonsons’ goal has always been to document it. Schools don’t want to talk about slavery, and want to exclude certain books, and create textbooks that may not include certain aspects of history. Some people want certain statues taken down and just want to erase all the bad that has happened in our country like it never happened. We know that there are some terrible things that occurred, but that does not mean we have to act as if it didn’t happen. We must acknowledge the past to embrace a better future. Let’s talk about these conversations. They are difficult but it’s how we move forward towards racial healing and towards “a more perfect union.” If you didn’t know, the day after the MLK holiday, is National Day of Racial Healing. If you’re not familiar with the term, racial healing has been known as restoring “individuals and communities to wholeness.” In addition, “Racial healing repairs the damage caused by racism. It facilitates trust, builds authentic relationships, and bridges divides.” We can’t move forward and heal if we ignore the past. There is so much to learn about the past and how the past can help shape our present and future.
Publisher Shirley Ann Malonson believes in speaking the truth even when it is information that may be hard to hear for readers. Mrs. Malonson noted that it is important that when people read the newspaper that they “are not afraid of what’s written, “because the truth is what will be published. She also talked about mainstream media and how they won’t report information about us. This includes information about our communities, our stories, and our history, which is why the Black press was created in the first place, and why it is still needed.
Mr. Malonson also discussed the importance of being aware of what information you are taking in. Not all information is good information, and in the days of technology and social media, there is a lot of information that can be fake or may change the way you think, which can be “dangerous,” he said. He further mentioned, “It is really important that people know how to sort through this information because there is too much information out there. The Black press needs to figure out how we can do a better job in educating people about that and making them more aware.” If people aren’t aware, then they can’t be educated properly on certain events, news stories, and so much more. Mr. Malonson stressed, “The more miseducated Black folks get, and the changing of their thinking, the more they may see there is not a need for a Black paper.”
When asked about where the Black press is headed, Mr. Malonson said, “There will always be a mission and a purpose of people knowing who they are and who their people are. Once you know who you are, you really start having pride and greatness for yourself, so there will always be a purpose for Black media to be a voice for Black people.”
Angel Jones, an avid reader of Afram News discussed her reasons why the Black press is important. “The Black press is important as it expresses our purpose for existence and our culture’s beauty. It’s our voice, our truth, and our legacy. I love African American News and Issues for its diversity and inspiration of hope that allows small voices to be heard in a powerful way to create change to help our communities be heard.” She concluded with, thank you African American News and Issues, for your strength gives us strength.”
Mary G. Ellison, who also reads Afram News said, “I like to read the African American news to stay current on what is happening in the black community. There’s a major difference (both positive and negative) in today’s world and generation compared to my generation’s beginning in the 1930s.”
Afram News is proud to serve and be a voice for the people. Black news was important back then, and is still important today, and will remain important in the future. In the words of Mr. Malonson, “We will tell the truth, without fear or favor.”