Documenting the Black Press in America

Thomas C. Battle, Ph.D.

     The idea of establishing a Black Press Archives and Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers was conceived in 1965 by William O. Walker, Editor-Publisher of the Cleveland Call and Post. Under the leadership of Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, the National Newspaper Publishers Association endorsed a plan to develop an archives and gallery at a university where the assembled documentation on the Black press could be permanently preserved and made available to scholars, students and the public.

     On July 12th, 1973, Dr. Goodlett, President of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, wrote President James E. Cheek to propose the initiation of a joint project to establish at Howard University and "Archives of the Black Press in America" and "a gallery honoring the famous and outstanding Black newspaper publishers, beginning with John Russwurm, publisher of Freedom's Journal and founder of the Black Press."

     This idea was received enthusiastically by Dr. Cheek, and in 1973 he authorized the creation of a joint Howard University-NNPA project to create the archives and gallery as a unit of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. Recognized as one of the world's largest and most comprehensive repositories for the collection and preservation of materials documenting the history and culture of Black people in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and United States, the Research Center is an ideal location for the archives of the Black Press.

     The National Newspaper Publishers Association appointed a committee on the Archives and Gallery, which was chaired until his death by Emory O. Jackson, Editor of The Birmingham World, He was succeeded by Mr. William O. Walker, who had served on the organizing committee along with Mrs. Marjorie B. Parham, Editor-Publisher of the Cincinnati Herald. Dr. Cheek designated the Director of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center as the University's representative to meet with the NNPA's Black Press Archives Committee.

     The successful completion of negotiations to establish the Black Press Archives in the Moorland -Spingarn Research Center was a major accomplishment of the newly restructured Research Center's first year. As a comprehensive research resource that would include complete microfilm files of Black newspapers, as well as the personal papers and records of Black editors, publishers and journalists, the Black Press Archives was envisioned as a vital and constructive element of the Research Center's program to collect, preserve and interpret Black history and culture. In order to maximize the value of the Black Press Archives, there was to be a comprehensive collection of Black newspapers, as well as an extensive collection of the private as well as business papers of publishers, reporters, and other persons involved in the production and development of Black newspapers.


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February 2000