“No one can speak for us like we can speak for ourselves. No one can advocate our cause like we can who have felt the oppression.” (Richmond Planet, July 15, 1893)
“The newspaper is a mirror of the shifting life of the people; it can reflect only what appears before it.” (New York Amsterdam News, July 31, 1929).
“[Black newspapers] are presenting the Negroes’ side as never before. They are telling of his grievances; they are telling of his rise and his progress. They are recounting his struggles and giving the whys and wherefores of his failures . . .” (Atlanta Independent, February 13, 1915).
“To correct . . . false statements, to give the other side of the picture, to show the truth and expose the falsity of . . . statements [in white newspapers] has been the duty of race papers. . . . The Negro press is laboring assiduously . . . for the benefit of the whole race” (Philadelphia Tribune, December 6, 1913).
“Negro weeklies . . . have a more important mission than the dissemination of mere news. . . . They are race papers. They are organs of propaganda. Their chief business is to stimulate thought among Negroes about the things that vitally concern them” (New York Age, October 22, 1914).
‘Tis a thankless task the Negro Editors face,
But they love to fight for rights of our race;
Fight on, oh, ye editors, brave men and true,
St. Peter will not turn down real men like you.
Who’ll march up to the gate? Who’ll walk right in?
Who, Negro editors? Who?
(excerpt from James Conway Jones, “Who?” in the Washington Bee, July 16, 1915)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
African American newspapers reported news — marriages, births, crimes, lawsuits, club meetings, business dealings — but they also covered issues particularly relevant to their black readers. Notably, their topics included lynchings, which they — unlike white newspapers — presented in end-of-year wrap-ups along with major political, social, and economic events.
As the Washington Bee near the end of 1908 explained to the nation, “Of these 122 Negroes lynched in two years, one was just accused of being the father of a boy who happened unintentionally to jostle a white boy; one was just accused of expressing sympathy for a brother lynched; one juse [sic] accused of carrying a pistol; one just accused of marrying (with her free consent) a white woman; one just accused of being the wife of an assailant; three just accused by insulting, by word, an able-bodied white man. . . .They were simply ‘accused’ by an irresponsible, in-defiance-of-law, bloodthirsty mob” (October 17).