Black Newspapers and Media are Important

December 19, 2018

History records that in 1827, Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwarm started

the “first” African-American publication, called Freedom's Journal.  In their own words, the paper was started as a counter to the racist newspapers of that time.  They were quoted as saying, "We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us." The first issues of Freedom’s Journal were capped with a logo that read, “Righteousness Exalteth A Nation,” and later it was changed to, “Devoted To The Improvement Of The Colored Population.” These types of introductory logos have dotted many African American newspapers ever since. The old San Antonio Register was no different with its own slogan of “Right, Justice, and Progress.” These slogans were aimed at the racist fake news of white supremacist news reporters, editors, and columnists. For many years, newspapers make racist jokes, had ads for the sale of slaves, and reported the majority of the news from a segregationist point of view. Newspapers also printed articles that supported the lynching of blacks and Mexican Americans.


Despite some claims that the San Antonio Inquirer, the newspaper owned by G.W. Bouldin, was one of the first black newspapers in the San Antonio area, there is evidence that points to an 1860 black paper, whose name I have not discovered at this point, that was created on the printing press of a German abolitionist named Adolph Douai.  Douai was ran out of San Antonio and forced to abandon his printing press in San Antonio.  According to a broadsheet printed by union activists, it was printed in New Haven, Connecticut and was called the “Workman Advocate.” Gleaned from its pages is this statement that was part of an announcement of the death of Douai in 1888: “This paper, which is owned, edited, and whose type is by Negroes is printed upon the same press with which Dr. Douai first battled for the emancipation of the black man. He has the gratitude of the colored race who will ever remember his endeavors in behalf of freedom.” However, I have not determined if the paper was in San Antonio or New Braunfels Texas or some other Hill Country city.  The Workman Advocate is dated January 26, 1888 (pg. 1), and was in its fourth year of publication.


Douai also advocated a free state within Texas in 1855 for blacks.

African American newspapers took on the mantle of militant pamphleteering. The pages of these newspapers provided international, national, and regional information from an anti-racist point of view when America seethed with racism.  During the early part of 1919, the first black news service was created in opposition to the policies of Marcus Garvey.  According to Cyril Briggs, in a 1958 letter to Theodore Draper, the Crusader News Service was the first African News Service in the United States that was used extensively used by black newspapers around the country because it was free. We learned a different story about Marcus Garvey from the first Black News Service.


The black organization that opposed Garvey was the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), which saw Garvey as a sell-out to white racist schemes to remove blacks from America to Africa in order to further the aims of a “white America” free from a black presence. Garvey was criticized by many black folks for being ultra-nationalist and a divisive force because he disliked lighter-skinned blacks and supported a nationalistic form of black segregation. The scheme to go back to Africa was also supported by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.




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