Finding and Using African American Newspapers

By Washburn, Patrick S. | Journalism History, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview
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Finding and Using African American Newspapers


Washburn, Patrick S., Journalism History


Pinnick, Timothy N. Finding and Using African American Newspapers. Wyandotte, OkIa.: Gregath Publishing Co., 2008. 71 pp. $25.

Finding and Using African American Newspapers, which is useful for both historians and genealogists, has two purposes: How to find black newspapers and then how to effectively mine their contents. Fot journalism historians, the first purpose will be the one of most interest.

Timothy N. Pinnick, a former public school teacher who is now an historical researcher and a lecturer, touches on a topic that particularly perplexes researchers who have little or no experience examining black newspapers. While it is relatively easy to find what white-owned, mainstream newspapers existed - looking in Editor & Publisher Year Book is frequently a good start - it is quite another thing to do this with many black papers. For example, there has been considerable disagreement among historians about how many black papers existed in the period from the end of the Civil War until 1 900, much less where they were located.

The value of Pinnick's book is that it quickly shows historians how to find what black newspapers existed and how to locate them. Besides telling readers how to find these newspapers through the Library of Congress, which two years ago had 1,686 black papers catalogued, he specifically recommends three excellent books. They are: African-American Newspapers and Periodicals: A National Bibliography; Bibliographic Checklist of African American Newspapers; and Extant Collections of Early Black Newspapers: A Research Guide to the Black Press, 1880-1915. He briefly discusses each book's strengths, which is extremely helpful.

He also touches on internet sites of value for black newspaper scholars. Among these are Accessible Archives and ProQuest, LLC. As he notes, however, it can be costly for an institution to purchase what these sites offer and finding a university that has bought them "may be a challenge."

In discussing how to most effectively use black papers, Pinnick points out one of the interesting differences between many black newspapers and their white-owned counterparts.

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