Black Press vital in forging path for civil rights

A continued fight for justice

Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Correspondent | 1/24/2019, midnight

In the March 2018 story, “Race News: Chronicling the Black Press and fight for Justice,”journalist Tony Pecinovsky noted that the rocky relationship between journalism and the struggle for African-American equality, like any other courtship, is full of ebbs and flows, fluctuations that often times mirror larger societal changes.

“Exploring this relationship, in all its nuance and complexity, is especially important today as we try to discern and understand contemporary reality, a reality the Trump Administration increasingly attempts to obscure and mystify with its reliance on “alternative facts…’ ‘…facts’ that oftentimes lack quantifiable, tangible evidence,” Pecinovsky said.

In that context, he said Fred Carroll’s book, “Race News: Black Journalists and the Fight for Racial Justice in the 20th Century,” is a welcome addition to the understanding of both journalistic and African-American history.

Some historians have rightly begun to see the struggle for African-American equality through the lens of the “long Civil Rights revolution.”

“Thankfully, Carroll also sees the role of ‘race news’ through the lens of a long struggle and notes that early 20th Century commercial publishers proudly traced their lineage back to black journalism’s beginnings… to its very first newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, which was founded in 1827,” Pecinovsky said.

He also noted that the “Black news industry was owned, produced, and consumed primarily independent of white oversight,” thereby enabling Black journalists to “package their mission of ending racial discrimination and securing citizenship rights within a profit-oriented, objective presentation of current events designed to cater to the many interests of the largest possible Black readership.”

The Black Press remains as viable as ever.

“The Black Press is an aspect of the fabric of the Black existence in America that is not getting enough attention or support from the community,” said Kisha A. Brown, founder and CEO of Justis Connection, an organization committed to connecting top legal talent of color to local communities and Brown said the Black Press plays a large role in telling the stories of those communities. Brown said African Americans need to honor that.

“We rally to support athletes and artists who are ‘wronged’ by the system but what we fail to honor is the voice of the Black Press that has been capturing our stories for centuries,” Brown said. “Long before Black Twitter and online blogs … and so the Black Press is not only an essential voice, but it is also a historical and cultural archaeological goldmine that we must preserve.”

One of the oldest Black-owned business industries in America, The Black Press began more than 191 years ago.

On March 16, 1827, the first edition of “Freedom’s Journal” was published, thrusting African-Americans into the bustling publishing business. At the time, Blacks in America weren’t even considered citizens, most were slaves and forbidden to read or write.

However, John Russwurm and Reverend Samuel Cornish rose up bravely, declaring that, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”

Dorothy Leavell, publisher of the historic “Chicago Crusader” newspaper and chairperson of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), said in an earlier interview that when Russwurm and Cornish established the Black Press by publishing “Freedom’s Journal,” they wanted to provide a voice for Black people.