The Past, Present and Future of Black Journalism

In Summary

This article was submitted by Leah Green. Green is a student at Delaware State University and a finalist in BNC's inaugural HBCU Journalism Project.

March 16, 1827 should be a date we all resonate with. This is the day the first black-owned and operated newspaper came to fruition. Started by a group of free black men in New York City not long after slavery was abolished. Freedom’s Journal addressed controversial issues, current events, and anecdotes. Subsequently, it created a space where African Americans could express their views, and advocate for their rights. 

This newspaper was a springboard for black journalism; by the beginning of the Civil War over 40 black owned and operated papers were in motion. This included Fredrick Douglass’s “The North Star”, used to not only denounce slavery, but to fight for the emancipation of women and other oppressed marginal groups. During the Civil War the stories written consisted of what this war meant for our America. How does this benefit or even hurt us? Both the The Anglo-African and The Christian Recorder reported extensively on the conflict, and what this meant in terms of emancipation, regardless of how hard facing the truth was. As Nayyera Hak said, “all stories should be represented through the lens of truth, facts are fact, but our experiences matter.” Something we should all keep in mind as aspiring journalists, newspapers aren’t just sources of information, but places of true activism, and hope. 

During Black News Channel’s (BNC) Media Day, Charles Blow said it best: “It has always been the case that every movement for black people’s progress has been accompanied by an amazingly strong and energetic black press.” The dream of supporting the black and brown communities has always been prominent. We have journalists like Yamiche Alcindor, who talked about the murder of Emmet Till and how it pushed the nation to confront lynching. Men like Lester Holt, who moderated the 2016 Presidential debate, and was awarded Journalist of the year by the NABJ the same year. Teachers like Nikole Hannah Jones who created the 1619 project, which changes history by reframing our national ideals, and rewiring our minds on the cause and effects of slavery. 

Errin Haines, an editor for ‘The 19’, said in a 2020 Glamour article, “Black women have been telling the truth about America for a long time. As a Black woman in journalism, my obligation is no less than that. And I do that on the shoulders of all of the women who’ve done that work before me and with me now.” Our efforts are not in vain, we are moving forward with each day. With our current role models and upcoming ones, we are sure to reach any goal we desire; we are the future of black journalism in America. 

“The future is ours to win, but to get there we can’t stand still.” Obama couldn’t have said it any better. As future journalists it’s our turn to look, and learn from our mentors and make our mark in the world of journalism. Shedding light, and truth;  I encourage you, black journalists of America to move, make noise,  and make yourself seen. 

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