P.B. Young Newspaperman. Race Politics and Journalism in the New South 1910-1962

By Pearson, Sidney A. JR. | Journalism Quarterly, Summer 1989 | Go to article overview

P.B. Young Newspaperman. Race Politics and Journalism in the New South 1910-1962


Pearson, Sidney A. JR., Journalism Quarterly


SUGGS. HENRY LEWIS, P.B. Young Newspaperman. Race Politics and Journalism in the New South 1910-1962. Charlottsville: University of Virginia Press, 1988. 254 pp. S24.95 cloth.

The story of the American South between the end of the Civil War and the time of the great Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s is one that is still being told. With each new telling, if done with sensitivity to the subject matter, the story becomes both clearer and more complex. Both the clarity and the complexity of this period are well described in this fascinating account of P.B. Young, Sr., owner and editor of the Norfolk (Virginia) Journal and Guide, once one of the leading black newspapers in the country. Today, as Suggs wistfully notes, Young is all but forgotten, his many accomplishments reduced to the naming of a city park after him in his hometown of Norfolk. But in the period covered by this splendid account of his journalistic career, he was among the most influential black leaders in the South. In 1947 his newspaper had a circulation in excess of 70,000 copies - a solid and respectable figure for any local newspaper. This readable history may help restore his memory and will certainly help preserve the record of his contributions.

Reading the story of Young's life as told by Suggs is to be reminded of how conservative, in the best sense of the word, were so many black leaders in the South. He was, perhaps, too much the "solid citizen," in Suggs's words, to ever be on the cutting edge of civil rights strategy, although his life-long dedication to the eradication of segregation and its attendant evils was never in doubt. It was this very respectability that so often made him a much sought after liaison between black and white communities whenever tensions flared. A measure of his status among both blacks and whites may be seen in the fact that his editorials were carried in various white newspapers as well as black newspapers across the country. When P.B. Young, Sr., spoke, it was simply aassumed that he spoke for literally millions of other blacks throughout the South.

Initially, Young was cautious about race relations, very much an "accommodationist." He was a disciple of Booker T. Washington and followed the self-help programs espoused by Washington until the establishment of the NAACP in 1909. With that single event, it was evident to Young that whatever his personal philosophy had been, "The NAACP represented the future; Washington, the past. …

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