Book Mini-Review: The Glossy Raised Fist

Writing history, making history, repeating for generations, then becoming history

Our Kind of Historian: The Work and Activism of Lerone Bennett, Jr.

E. James West.

Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 328 pp., $27.95.

West uses his mastery of the histories of Black Chicago and Ebony/Jet well here, significantly building on and adding to his previous work on the topic. An author explains an author in a wonderful intellectual history that sticks to very exciting facts: Lerone Bennett rises in a rising time, gaining knowledge and experience and pointing them toward what he would call in print the Black Revolution. He transforms himself from journalist to historian, from moderate, Kappa Morehouse Man to Pan-Africanist revolutionary. Absolutely necessary for those who want to understand 20th-century Black press history and, perhaps more importantly, how one “Black-famous” author’s Black history texts–all the outgrowth of one national Black magazine, a 20th-century legend once on every Black American coffee table–were significant weapons in the Black struggle before African-Americans had full access to local and national broadcasting and now international streaming.

New Book On Lerone Bennett Jr. Out Now!

A 20th-century one-of-a-kind, forged and operating during a historical era

I put my request in tonight, and I can’t wait!!!!

“You Know Because You Read The AFRO!” To Gayle King And Others Like You: It’s Really Okay If You Just Lie Next Time :)

Writing this while reading Richard Prince’s Journal-isms column that has people reacting to the idea that CBS’ Gayle King, one of the nation’s top Black journalists, did not know about the lives and work of Ethel Payne and Alice Dunnigan.

Admittedly, I’m not an average person when it comes to the Black press, so I can’t relate. As a ’80s teenager, I read Ethel Payne in real-time in the newspaper I started my career at, The New Jersey Afro-American! (“You know because you read THE AFRO” was the newspaper chain’s motto 🙂 ) My Afro’s Op-Ed page was “national,” not local, and so that meant it was added on to local editions like ours by the Baltimore headquarters. Payne had an Op-Ed column there, “Behind The Scenes.” And because the Black press is so self-referential, whenever she was honored, they’d tell her history. At 22, I had also read the 2nd edition of Roland Wolseley’s The Black Press, USA, a flawed-but-important book that shaped my decision three decades ago to become a Black media historian. Of course it mentions her, as does later a much better general-history book written by historian Clint C. Wilson II.

Yeah, I wish prominent Black people in public would stop being so honest about their ignorance. 🙂 Not knowing something and being rich and famous means you don’t have to know it, right? This means that Gayle King has never regularly read historic/legacy (20th century) Black newspapers!

It’s one thing when David McCullough admitted in 1989, as he did in his PBS’ American Experience intro on William Greaves’ Ida B. Wells film, that he didn’t know who she was, but another when one of us does it!

Don’t think our young Black journalism students are not peeping that because I’ve taught them at HBCUs and I know. (And this is part of a larger, systemic dumping of all media history classes because of J-schools’ well-funded digital focus. When I last checked, Maryland, my grad alma mater, stopped teaching journalism history as separate classes years ago.) Sadly, this public omission proves Gen Z’s irrelevancy point from its perspective.

P.S. Prince reminded me of this, so they’re really little room for excuses.

Black Press Legends Ethel Payne and Alice Dunnigan Get New Posthumous Honor

Asante Sana, Askia Muhammad

I was so happy to try to give him his journalistic flowers while he was here.

FEBRUARY 27th UPDATE: The Final Call’s tribute can be found here and here.

MARCH 5th UPDATE:

APRIL 2nd UPDATE: Coverage of the above event can be found here and here.

Johnson Publications Files For Bankruptcy

Well…..I’ll just say it’s a good thing historians nourish ourselves through memory.  😦

 

Lerone Bennett Jr.: Until That New Biography Comes Out Next Year……

…………I’ll have to be satisfied with this new, and fine, journal article by Christopher M. Tinson.

The biography, coming early next year, will be called “Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett, Jr: Black Popular History in Postwar America” by James West.

West tells me that I need to check out a forthcoming book on Hoyt Fuller by Jonathan Fenderson. It’s now on the list.

Asante Sana, The Village Voice

Even putting on my media historian’s hat, it is difficult for me to explain how important The Voice was to American journalism.

Once upon a time (at least from the 1970s through the 1990s), it was the place for uncompromising political and cultural journalism. It was required reading for people who wanted to absorb (as readers) or master (as writers) the now-dying art of longform mass-media journalism.

The Voice was important to me because I read there important Black writers such as Thulani Davis, Lisa Jones, Greg Tate, Peter Noel and Joe Wood. (I never forgot Wood’s 5,000+ profile of Albert Murray in the paper’s famous annual Arts Supplement pullout.) The Voice essay that still shakes me to this day is Joan Morgan‘s “A Blackwoman’s Guide To The [Mike] Tyson Trial,” an article that introduced me to sexual harassment, misogyny and rape culture.

It was for people who wanted hardcore journalism. It showed me you didn’t have to be at The New York Times or The New Yorker to kick journalistic ass in New York! It made me want to be a real writer who wrote longform narrative journalism in nuance and detail. After I finish the book I’m writing, I’m going to do just that.

 

Book-Mini Review: Organic Black Feminism Within Traditional Black Community Activism


Lucile H. Bluford and The Kansas City Call: Activist Voice for Social Justice.
Shelia Brooks and Clint C. Wilson II.
Lexington Books. 112 pp., $80.

The story of how Lucile Bluford helped lead Black Kansas City from the late 1960s through the 1980s via her newspaper, The Kansas City Call, is not unusual, as 20th century Black press stories go. And that very normality is what makes this monograph important. When not roadblocked by Black male sexism (and even when they are), Black women seek, and fight, to save, heal and transform the entire Black community–to save it from itself, even if that work results in personal attack and vicious slander. These women, like Bluford, are strategic. And Brooks and Wilson explain that tactical nature, along with that unswerving commitment, in qualitative and quantitative form, showcasing well her roles as local activist, cheerleader and critic. In the Twitter Age, one in which Black feminist perspectives often lead national Black (digital) activist discourse, Bluford’s brand would today hold up as well as her electric typewriter on the book’s cover: she often used a male pseudonym when it was time to talk tough. But that is not the point here, although that historic action of Black press female reporters and editors should be the focus of future 19th and 20th century Black newspaper studies. Happily, there is no attack and slander in Bluford’s story, because she earned the respect of Kansas City as its Black informational leader and independent advocate. Future monographs about 20th century Black press publishers, reporters and editors should explain in further detail the ideological/personal relationships between Black newspaper staffs and Black activists, especially the idea that the Black women who have always driven local Black activism were major portions of these papers’ audiences. But for now, with more books published on Black women journalists in recent years than ever before, academia is now seeing a significant growth in the topic of Black press herstory.

My Root Article On The 50th Anniversary of “The Autobiography Of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley” (Its Full Title, BTW)……

the_autobiography_of_malcolm_x
……is here.