Black newspapers vied with each other in initiating their own programs: the Great Northern Drive, the Clean Block Campaign, the Voter Registration Program, the 2 V's, the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" drive, and the numerous self-help and self-improvement efforts that ante-date the 3 V's mission of the Cincinnati Union. A few newspapers, like the Afro-American and Philadelphia Tribune, incorporated their various assistance programs as charities under separate management.

     Courage in publishing and in group leadership marked the careers of Negro editors and publishers such as Ida B. Wells, the Manly brothers, the Bateses, and their confreres who braved local opposition of various kinds. Militancy came to be the mark of the forward-looking Black newspaper and it drew admiration from its readers.

     The editors and managers of Black newspapers continue to remind their public of the prevailing mission of their product. They do this in their own speeches, debates, and editorials. They do it in their salutatories, platforms, and slogans. They express it in their benevolences and in the Black Newspaper Week themes. Their organization picks up the strains in its workshop and convention themes.

     The record of the Black press has been smeared from time to time by the exploiters, the footdraggers, and the keepers of low standards. However, their numbers have been small. They have been far outdistanced by the likes of Philip A. Bell, T. Thomas Fortune, William Monroe Trotter, Robert S. Abbott, C.A. Franklin, Carl and John H. Murphy, Wendell P. Dabney, Robert L. Vann, William O. Walker, John H. Sengstacke, P. Bernard Young, Sr., Christopher J. Perry, and literally hundreds of others whose deeds have gone unsung.

     Some of the better papers, even those of high respectability, found it to their advantage to indulge in gaudy makeup, but they did so with reason and explanation. They did not abnegate their basic responsibility to society.

     In its overall purpose the Black publication bears some resemblance to the foreign language newspaper. That, too, essayed to teach the newcomer, to inform him of events among his fellow countrymen here and overseas, to adapt him to American ways, and to guide him into citizenship. The task of the Black newspaper, however, has proved to be far more formidable and challenging.

 

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February 2000