This rallying of the community behind the Scottsboro defendants not only represented a function of Black journalism, but also represented a function of journalism in general. Since their establishment in 1827, Black newspapers have primarily served as proponents of Black civil rights, repositories for Black art and literature, unifiers of the race and highlighters of Black achievement.66 The unifier and civil rights functions clearly apply to the press and Scottsboro.

     In general, journalism in its presentation of information and perspectives constructs the realities and articulates what the key issues are for individuals. As with Black journalism, mainstream journalism also unifies the various communities, factions and needs of it constituents. For Black newspapers, the constituents are the Black race. For mainstream newspapers the constituents are supposed to be all races.

     The Call and Post articulated the meaning and relevance of the issues surrounding the Scottsboro cases. The paper's definition of community extended beyond the city limits of Cleveland. As it involved the Cleveland community in supporting the defendants, it explained how the cases' outcome would affect racial equality and equal justice in the future.

     The Call and Post's attempts to mobilize the community may have also served to establish its status and/or create a niche for itself as a newspaper. Direct appeals to the masses did contribute to the success of major Black newspapers such as the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier. The Chicago Defender's campaign for Black northward migration contributed to its success and recognition. The Pittsburgh Courier found its niche by addressing the housing, educational and employment needs of the newly arrived Black migrants to Pittsburgh. It should be noted that William Walker was an editor at the Courier during this time period (1915-1920). Unlike the Call and Post, the Defender and the Courier probably did not need to initiate any Scottsboro drives to establish themselves as viable papers.

     In an era when radicals, politicians, and traditional civil rights organizations vied for the attention of Blacks, the Scottsboro incident provided an opportunity for Black newspapers to emerge as the primary voice for Blacks. The Call and Post attempted to interpret - as a responsible paper should - the various issues involved in Scottsboro. Furthermore, the Call and Post provided just one more example of the importance of the relationship between a newspaper and its community.


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February 2000