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Message from the National Newspaper
Publishers Association (NNPA)

The Black Press: Future Tense

By John J. Oliver Jr.

In 1827, in a small office in downtown New York City, and against the expressed will of a racially divided nation, freed Blacks gave birth to the Black press. The paper they began publishing, Freedom’s Journal, existed thirty-four years before the first shot was fired in the Civil War and 36 years before President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The need then remains the need now: for Blacks to speak loudly and clearly, for themselves, about their own concerns. The Black press is the defender, spokesperson, and mirror for Black people and for America.

Historically, the Black press fought against slavery and for African-American participation in the Civil War and World Wars I and II. It chipped away at Jim Crow by documenting—and joining—the battles for American inclusion. The Black press gave column space and support to labor leader A. Philip Randolph, baseball legend Jackie Robinson and singer/activist Lena Horne, among many, many others. It was on the frontline of the civil rights movement decades before most white Americans knew there was one.

Today, as it was in the past, it is Black newspapers in large cities and small towns throughout the United States that continue to remind America that she has a long journey before she reaches her full potential and truly becomes "one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all."

Meanwhile, Black families being served by today’s Black press are as diverse as any other group. They are liberal. They are conservative. They play basketball. They play golf. They drive mini-vans. They listen to hip-hop. They listen to opera. They do it all. However, there is little doubt that as we go into the future, such diversity will continue to be mostly visible only in the pages of the Black press.

 

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February 2000