The Black Press: New Literary and Historical Essays

By Ratzlaff, Aleen J. | Journalism History, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

The Black Press: New Literary and Historical Essays


Ratzlaff, Aleen J., Journalism History


Vogel, Todd, ed. The Black Press: New Literary and Historical Essays. New Brunswick, NJ.: Rutgers University Press, 2001. 257 pp. $22.

The Black Press: New Literary and Historical Essays is a collection of thirteen essays that span nearly 175 years of black press history. An underlying premise of the book is the intrinsic interplay of the black press with social, political, and economic factors that have contributed to a complex public sphere within our segregated society. As Todd Vogel notes in his introduction, the essays "interpret the press as both a performance and as a commodity within the culture at large."

Vogel, director of American studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, organizes the essays chronologically into four historical eras. These divisions parallel major phases of black press history: the antebellum years, post Civil War, the Harlem Renaissance, and World War II and postwar America. This scope encompasses a diversity of topics. Among the collection are a rhetorical analysis of strategies used by Frederick Douglass in his journalistic writings (Shelley Fisher Fishkin and Carla L. Peterson); a comparative study of Native American images in black newspapers that published in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Hannah Gourgy); an examination of the Chicago Defender's coverage of the Japanese internment policy during World War II (C.K. Doreski); an analysis of photographs in Ebony magazine (Maren Stange); a narrative of the Black Panther newspaper (Roger Streitmatter); and a study of two digitized publications of the 1990s (Anna Everett).

Most of the book's contributors combine literary and historical analyses to explore various mediums-pamphlets, newspapers, and periodicals-that constitute the black press. This interdisciplinary approach, one of the book's strengths, provides substantive, multi-dimensioned interpretations of texts and images that gave voice and influence to people marginalized by mainstream society. …

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