Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ollie Stewart: An African-American Looking at American Politics, Society and Culture

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ollie Stewart: An African-American Looking at American Politics, Society and Culture

Article excerpt

Ollie Anderson Stewart was one of at least twenty-seven African-American correspondents who covered Black troops during World War II from all theatres. Like the other Black war correspondents, Stewart wrote about the valor and success of the fighter pilots now known as the Tuskegee Airmen. He also chronicled the experiences and contributions, hence, the day-to-day grind of Black soldiers who did the war's manual labor; the only roles they were given for much of the conflict. (1)

The black press was in its glory days during the war, bringing readers the stories they were not getting in the mainstream media. (2) Stewart ranked among the best of Black correspondents, filing hundreds of stories, interviewing Pope Pius II and being one of only a few correspondents to meet with President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Casablanca in 1943. After the war, the black press was unable to afford the costs associated with dispatching correspondents to report firsthand from overseas. It, therefore, had to engage in episodic newsgathering by Black writers who rarely lived in foreign lands. Stewart was the exception. (3) In 1949, he became the only African American reporting continually from overseas. (4) With the backing of the Afro-American newspaper chain, and pursuing other ventures to support himself, Stewart maintained a base in Paris for 28 years, filing articles and columns for the Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and national editions of the newspaper, and writing freelance pieces for other publications. He had already established himself as a reputable journalist prior to and during the war, but in Paris, he solidified that reputation and became much sought after in social and political circles. Despite his longevity and unique position as an African-American journalist living and writing from abroad, Stewart remains almost invisible in media, journalism and American history.

This study aims to rescue the Paris-based correspondent from invisibility and to provide an analysis of his foreign reporting from the post-World War II years until his return to the United States in 1977. This study is significant because it not only sheds light on the career of one individual, but it expands the breadth of knowledge about African-American foreign correspondence, a genre that has received scant attention in media history. Because it covers a broad period during which seminal movements occurred at home and abroad, this article also illustrates how one major African-American publication carried on its foreign news reporting and contributed to the discourse about Blacks at home and in Europe.

Using framing theory, this study identifies and examines Stewart's writings to determine the content and perspectives he provided. According to Robert Entman, framing is predicated upon giving salience to "some aspects of a perceived reality, thereby promoting a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation." Framing affects public opinion and can affect public policy formation.

With that guiding theoretical framework, this study asks: Why did Stewart become an expatriate? Did he address integration or politics or wars? Did his columns advocate for the race, as Black journalists often did in their columns, or were his pieces primarily human interest and entertaining topics? How did Stewart frame the world from his perch overseas?

Founded in 1892, the Afro-American was in the forefront of Black foreign correspondence, reporting on the slave trade in Liberia during the late 1920s, dispatching its managing editor, William Jones, to report on Africa and the Diaspora, as well as the League of Nations, during the 1930s. Editor and publisher Carl Murphy reported from Haiti during the same decade, even as he dispatched a star reporter, Ralph Matthews, to cover the coronation of King George VI in 1937, and poet Langston Hughes to cover the Spanish Civil War. …

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