Book Reviews -- Raising Her Voice: African-American Women Journalists Who Changed History by Rodger Streitmatter

Article excerpt

Streitmatter, Rodger. Raising Her Voice: African-American Women Journalists Who Changed History. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994. 208 pp. $30.

Raising Her Voice attempts to rectify a grossly neglected area of journalism history by chronicling the lives and contributions of eleven African-American women journalists. It appears to be an expansion of Rodger Streimatter's ongoing research, which has included publications and conference presentations on at least five of the eleven journalists featured in the book.

While there are numerous African-American women journalists worthy of profiling, Streitmatter, who teaches in the School of Communication at American University, apparently selected those who, through journalism, significantly changed social conditions for African Americans and women. The journalists are presented in chronological order spanning significant phases of African-American history, including slavery, the early decades of Emancipation, the Harlem Renaissance and the modern civil rights movement. These women's crusades involved the abolition of slavery, an end to lynching, the granting of voting rights for women and an end to legal segregation.

Streitmatter devotes chapters to Maria W. Stewart, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Gertrude Bustill Mossell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Delilah Beasley, Marvel Cooke, Charlotta A. Bass, Alice Allison Dunnigan, Ethel L. Payne, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault. With the exception of Wells-Barnett, few of these women are mentioned in journalism or general American-history books. Each chapter begins with a summary of the women's journalistic accomplishments, and then details their personal lives, the circumstances leading to their careers in journalism, the nature of their accomplishments and crusades, and their lives after their journalism careers.

For these women, journalistic accomplishments went beyond winning awards and having front-page bylines. As Streitmatter points out, they used journalism as a vehicle for advocating social reform. They also provided another dimension to the journalistic process by interpreting the news instead of just reporting it. He notes that none confined herself "to the limited scope of 'objective reporter.'" Instead, each added her own perspective to the news through writing editorials, columns and news stories. …