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The Power of the Press

Photograph of the Press room of the Richmond Planet

The first African American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was published in 1827. Ever since, African Americans have used the press to establish an independent voice for Black communities and advance the struggle for freedom and equality. Publishers and journalists challenged racism by exposing injustice, reporting on civil rights activism, and presenting positive images of Black identity and achievement. Black newspapers served local as well as regional and national audiences, helping to foster a sense of community and shared interests among African Americans living in different areas of the country. Publications also reflected the diversity of Black people in the United States and throughout the diaspora. Through a wide range of subjects—political issues, society news, arts and culture, religion, business, travel, and more—the Black press captured and reflected the aspirations, struggles, triumphs, and everyday experiences of Black America.

Johnson Publishing Company: Image Power

From Ebony and Jet magazines to advertising and fashion, John H. Johnson’s company revolutionized how Black Americans saw themselves.

The June 1948 issue of Ebony magazine featuring a cover story written by Jackie Robinson.

The Power of the Press: Resources

NMAAHC Collection Search

The Black Press

Search the Museum’s online collection for items related to the history of publishing and the Black press

An issue of the Colored American Magazine with staples removed. The cover is printed in red ink and features a decorative design of roses by Theodore R. M. Hanné. The frontispiece is an image of E. Azalia Hackley. The issue features several poems but largely focuses on a celebration of industriousness and business success. The issue also includes illustrations and descriptions, including ones of Dr. Henry McKee Minton, President William Howard Taft, and the faculty and students of Georgia State College. The pages of this issue are numbered 134 to 185, for a total of 52 numbered pages. There are two pages of unnumbered advertisements at the beginning of the issue, and there are seven pages of unnumbered advertisements at the end of the issue.

National Newspaper Publishers Association

Trade association of the more than 200 African American-owned community newspapers from around the U.S. and producer of the BlackPressUSA Network

NNPA Screenshot

Black Press Research Collective

Digital scholarship and archival resources relating to the historical and contemporary role of Black newspapers in African Diasporic communities

SMMW018 BPRC Screenshot resize

Black Quotidian

Everyday History in African American Newspapers

Digital humanities project by scholar Matthew F. Delmont explores the history of daily life in the 20th century through the lens of the Black press

SMMW019 Black Quot