The Black Press – Soldiers Without Swords is an award winning documentary from 1999. it is the story of African American journalism from the mid 19th through the mid-20th centuries and the ongoing struggle against censorship and discrimination. The showing was organized by Rina Risper, Publisher of the New Citizens Press and Kathy Johnson,Head Librarian at the Downtown Branch, Capital Area District Library. A panel discussion involving three veteran Black publishers followed. With each incident of violent disorder dying the Civil Rights Era, increasing numbers of journalists were hired away from the Black press by major White news organizations. The documentary covered policies and brought to life the personalities of reporters and,publishers of Black newspapers including the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender. Of particular interest was the role of the Black press during successive migrations of Black people from Southern states to the opportunities for improved employment and improved education in the North. Black newspapers circulated throughout Southern states and alerted readers to employers who were hiring Black people. Information about housing was spread through the newspapers and the newspapers included valuable tips about manners of dress, language and social customs that Southern Black folks would need to gain acceptance in the North. The Black Press was an advocate as well as a source of information. Many White employers and town officials attempted to prevent circulation of Black newspapers because the Black newspapers played a role In encouraging low wage earners to move North. The migration North caused labor shortages in Southern industry and agriculture. The documentary covered the period up till the mid 1960s but the Black press continues. For 200 years, The Black Press has been a mainstay of strength within the Black community second only to Black religion. This is a great documentary. Thanks to Rina Risper and Kathy Thomas for a wonderful afternoon.
Andrew D. Quinn
This was printed in the April 7, 2013 – April 20, 2013 Edition