Did you know?
On March 16, 1827 Samuel E. Cornish (1795-1858) and John Brown Russwurm (1799-1851), both well-educated clergymen, began publishing Freedom’s Journal in New York City. Although it had a relatively short life -- it ceased publication March 28, 1829 issue -- it was important for being the first newspaper written by and for black Americans. Scholars estimate that by the time of the Civil War, more than 40 black newspapers were already in circulation.
This selective research guide identifes major sources of African American newspapers as well as some of the important contexutal and bibliographical materials that the Harvard Library makes available to users.
The scholary value of the African American press is immense. As James Danky reminds us in the Harvard Guide to African-American History (Harvard University Press, 2001):
Whether produced by a club, a church, or an independent businessperson, all black newspapers share the same specialty: coverage of local and national events that have been often misrepresented or ignored by the mainstream white press. Research on racial violence, voting, civil rights, education, poverty, and social welfare benefits enormously by utilizing black newspapers. Through features and obituaries, the papers document family histories and home, farm, and business ownership, making them also key sources for African-American genealogical research. Through articles, essays, fiction, and advertisements, they chronicle the daily life and culture of their subscribers. Only the black papers announced the marriage of the sharecropper's daughter or the graduation of a Harlem student (78-79).
Our hope is that this guide will have something to offer both the advanced and novice researcher.
If you are a Harvard undergraduate simply "sampling" African American studies (in a Gen Ed course or first-year seminar, for example) Backgrounds and Newspaper Collections Online will probably be the most immediately useful pages to explore.
Concentrators, graduate students and faculty, on the other hand, may need information about collections and scholarship addressed elsewhere in the guide.
We welcome your suggestions for expanding the guide and encourage your questions!
Susan Gilroy, Liaison to African and African American Studies and Librarian for Undergraduate Writing Programs, Harvard College Library
Related Guide: Finding Periodicals and Book Reviews on Africa: Newspapers