“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 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.

Mumia Abu-Jamal and Linn Washington in 1995

Compiling an anthology about Abu-Jamal, and Linn Washington gave me this article, published shortly after Abu-Jamal escaped the guillotine the first time a quarter of a century ago. It reminds me of dose days, when I was a part-time intern at the National Newspaper Publishers Association and constantly surrounded by Black newspapers. I always had a soft spot for The Philadelphia New Observer because it would print these huge, remarkable 20,000-word Black/Afrikan history supplements by James G. Spady, then a Black Philadelphia living institution.

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.

My 2006 Phone Chat With Cory Booker For The Crisis Magazine (And a 2014 Root Epilogue)

So Cory Booker is running for president. (Insert .gif here 🙂 )

Below is a .pdf of the actual page in The Crisis magazine that featured my Q+A interview with him, back in 2006. (No copyright infringement intended.) It was after he had just become mayor of Newark. And here’s what I wrote about the aftermath, which was part of this.

TSB Crisis Interview With Booker

And then there was this 2015 coda of sorts.

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 Latest Book Review, About The Power Of The 20th Century Black Press……

….is here.

Official Announcement: My New “People’s Biography” Of Ida B. Wells-Barnett Is Now Available During This Women’s History Month And Beyond

BOOK NOW AVAILABLE!

 

NEW BOOK DISCUSSES THE STRUGGLE OF BLACK WOMEN ACTIVISTS THRU THE LIFE OF JOURNALIST IDA B. WELLS

Ida B. Wells-Barnett is the historic link between Harriet Tubman, the great abolitionist and Civil War hero, and Ethel Payne, the pioneering twentieth century Chicago Black journalist who took up the journalism role she had pioneered. She lived during the time of the birth of Jim Crow and died 24 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, spurring the mass-action wing of the Civil Rights Movement.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) has gone from mid-twentieth century obscurity to a major twenty-first century subject in Women’s Studies and the history of Black American media.
But her life was much more complex than the one paragraph portrait written of her: Black journalist, anti-lynching crusader.

She was first and foremost a mother and wife. She was also a local Chicago community activist for decades. She was a devout Christian who believed deeply in the Black church and in Black schools, even when those institutions didn’t believe in her. She had no problem publicly criticizing Black ministers who failed to represent their flocks, and Black school systems when they failed the students in her charge. She would be fired and ostracized by many elements of the Black community for her stands. She was a major leader of several movements: the suffragist movement, the Black women’s club movement, as well as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was maneuvered out of power in many of the movements she led. It was especially despicable that, as the NAACP became more and more involved in anti-lynching, she was left out of its history, erased from the cause for which she risked her life!

This new book, Warrior Princess: A People’s Biography of Ida B. Wells (New York: Diasporic Africa Press), shows how her independent spirit infused her work.

By the time Wells-Barnett died, white women and Black northern men and women had the right to vote, the NAACP was on its way to becoming the most powerful civil rights organization of all time, and the Black press, thanks to the societal changes of the twentieth century, was about to become the most powerful nonreligious institution in Black communities.

This work is not a work of biography as much as it an ideological portrait from a Black feminist perspective. It’s a book that discusses the ideas and institutions around Ida B. Wells-Barnett as she spent her life in teaching, journalism, anti-lynching campaigns, and civil rights and political organizing. It discusses how she balanced white racism of both genders, and sexism from Black male leaders. It attempts to show how one Black woman created and maintained her selfhood amidst such challenges.

It is for Black women activists of the twenty-first century—those who are committed to showing that Black lives have always mattered most to them. It is for the young Black women who have spearheaded major protests and demonstrations during the presidencies of both Barack Obama, a Black Democrat, and Donald Trump, a white Republican.

This personal history tells us not only that there’s no easy road, but no reward for standing for the basics of civilization. It shows that victory does not equal celebration or credit. That when you use a sword to cut down injustice, the people who pass through the barriers you broke can have selective amnesia.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett demanded her own terms in life. She got them; she lived the life she wanted. But it was always a struggle, and the only reward was being able to express herself and live her own values in a deeply repressive time.

*********

Table Of Contents 

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER ONE—A POST-CIVIL WAR LIFE OF HOPE, DESTOYED BY PLAGUE; PARENTS AND AN ADOLESCENCE STOLEN

CHAPTER TWO—MISS IDA B. WELLS, THE SCHOOLTEACHER WHO FOUGHT ON A TRAIN

CHAPTER THREE—THE SHAPING OF BLACK AMERICA: IDA B. WELLS, THE BLACK PRESS AND FREE SPEECH IN POST-RECONSTRUCTION MEMPHIS

CHAPTER FOUR—KNOTTED ROPE: WELLS’ CAMPAIGNS AGAINST LYNCHING

CHAPTER FIVE—THE ‘PRINCESS OF THE PRESS’ BECOMES A FETED CLUBWOMAN

CHAPTER SIX—IDA’S ALPHABET: NAACP, NACW, NFL, NERL

CHAPTER SEVEN—FAMILY TIME

CHAPTER EIGHT—SEXISM IN THE MOVEMENT: WELLS-BARNETT FIGHTS BLACK FEMALE INVISIBLILTY

CHAPTER NINE—THE COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WELLS-BARNETT AND WHITE FEMINISM

CHAPTER TEN—AN ELDER, STOPPED IN MID-SENTENCE, AS THE BLACK MOVEMENT ROOTS ITSELF INTO THE 20TH CENTURY

CODA: A NATION OF LEADING BLACK FEMALE VOICES